Sign in to follow this  
Raiden_Sola

(Fiction+Art) DST: Lineage

Recommended Posts

Raiden_Sola    10

I have loved this game for a while now-  the art style, the mechanics, the wonderful characters, the strange environment and creatures, the rich but mysterious background lore, Klei's teasing us with puzzles outside the game - but something I always found of the most interest was the official timeline for the game, and one simple aspect of it.  Why was Wilson the last one captured? Why did Maxwell seem to have to go out of his way to trap him by getting him to make a portal?  What are the long-term consequences of moving all these people on both worlds?  What other secrets might unravel if a little light is shed upon them?  Just a few of the things I decided to look at as I delved into my exploration and interpretation of the lore through this writing.  I plan to post some art as well, but until I've practice enough to where I'm comfortable with how I'm drawing this wonderful universe, please enjoy this first installment of my literary ramblings.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Don't Starve Together - Lineage

 

* Chapter 1 *

 

Spoiler

 

The sky… it was always the same.  No matter how many seasons had passed, how many places he’d been, the sky always remained the same - a pale, slightly grayish canvas with no variation, except on the occasions when rain was coming.  The sky, however, was not the problem.

Wilson sighed from where he was laying in the grass, letting his head tilt over to the side, gazing blearily at the activity a few yards from him, that of his fellow survivors busily at work building up their camp.  Their newest camp at any rate; which one this was he’d lost count of now.  Their latest rebuild after a world wiped clean by Charlie after they had all been killed.  Just when it seemed like they might be gaining ground, getting into a position where perhaps they could live a somewhat comfortable, if unusual life, something always happened to destroy it all.

Wilson let his head roll back towards the sky, closing his eyes and just laying there.  He heard the footsteps of someone approaching him and stopping just short.  He didn’t bother to open his eyes.

“Hey Wilson… Are you alright?”  It was Willow.

“No.”

There was a long pause.  If she’d been waiting for Wilson to elaborate, it wasn’t coming.

“The camp’s almost done, and Warly’s making lunch.  Do you want to come sit by the fire? It’s kinda cold today,” Willow would coax.

“No.”

“Wigfrid found some gold, and we still have supplies, maybe you’d like to put the science machine together?”

Wilson didn’t answer this time, rolling over onto his side facing away from Willow, eyes remaining closed.  Willow scratched the back of her head with a frown, realizing that was probably not the best thing to have said.  “Well, okay… we’ll be over here if you want to join us.  We’ll save some lunch for you.”

It wasn’t until Willow had walked away that Wilson would frown, giving another sigh.  It was the blasted science machine that had caused the trouble this time - Wilson had been too occupied with fiddling with it, having an itch at the back of his mind that maybe there was something he hadn’t found yet, some secrets the gizmo had not show him yet among the clutter of broken thoughts and persistent inklings of information that the Forbidden Knowledge had left him when Maxwell had given it to him.  The only part of that information that had ever been clear was the designs of the portal, the rest of the information was scattered chaos that only the strange mechanisms of the science machine and the alchemy engine seemed to help bring into focus in his mind.  He often wondered if that was intentional or if Maxwell simply didn’t have any control of it, or even bothered to care, when he’d shoved it into Wilson’s head.

It was in that focus, fiddling with the machine and grasping at the ideas just out of his reach, that he’d been too distracted to hear the sounds of the coming Deerclops before it was right on top of the base.  The only one at the base at that time, and Wilson too absorbed in his work, he’d been taken down easily, as were the others as they trickled back to camp, or were taken down by the hounds that attacked soon after.  An ‘extraordinarily ill-turn of events’ Wickerbottom had described it in the aftermath as they were all put back to life and dumped back on the newly rebuilt world; or perhaps they had just been dumped on one of the numerous islands that Maxwell had built that they just hadn’t been to yet, it was anyone’s guess.  Wilson however was convinced it had happened because of his messing with the science machine.  The timing was just too perfect, it had to have been punishment from Charlie for whatever it was Wilson was trying to work out.  The others had tried to convince him otherwise, of course, but Wilson’s depression remained.

The worst of it was when they were revived.  Any other time, regardless of the circumstances, he remembered everything he’d learned, but whenever they all died, when every physical possession was taken from them, so too was the progress of his understanding the knowledge robbed from Wilson. A reminder it wasn’t actually his, perhaps, and a bitter reminder that he was still failing to discover anything original of any significance in his explorations as a scientist.  It made Wilson cringe, curling up and trying to push the thoughts from his mind.  By all things he held dear, he was never a religious man, but if a Hell truly existed, it was this wretched place.

 

 

“Is Mr. Wilson going to be okay?” Webber asked, looking across the campfire they were all sitting around, having their meal.

“He’ll be alright, deary.  He’s lost his confidence, but that should mend in time,” Wickerbottom would say in a comforting tone.  “It was a rough transition this time.”

“Aye.  Bad omens still hang in the air,” Wigfrid would say.

“Well he’s being stupid!” Willow would snap.  “He needs to stop being a dork and do some work.  That sort of stuff can happen to anyone!  Remember when Woody had us set up camp near that giant forest and we wound up with ten tree guards invading the camp at night?  Or when Wolfgang got lost and didn’t make it back to the Antlion in time to calm that baby down.  And I don’t even want to talk about the Varg.”

“I said I was sorry!” Warly grimaced. “I didn’t realize the tracks circled back towards camp, it was dark!”

“Point is we all got over it and got back to work.  Sulking isn’t going to help us get control of the situation again,” Willow huffed.

“Control is a fleeting illusion to comfort one’s self in the face of their mortality,” Wendy spoke placidly.

“You need to get a hobby, kid,” Willow, looking at her weirdly.  “And not like the last time.  You know, when you were just staring at the skeletons all day…”

“For now it’s just best to give Mr. Higgsbury his space until he’s settled down,” Wickerbottom would say.  “He’s never been one to give up.  He was the one out of all of us that made it to Maxwell, after all.  He met his death a hundred times but he kept after him until he finally reached him.  But everyone needs a rest, now in then.  He’ll be back to it in time.”

 

 

The rest of the day carried on without incident - wood was gathered, grass cut, twigs collected, rabbits terrified… Wilson eventually came into the camp to sit by the fire but he would not eat anything, just staring into the flames, brooding.  The others brought him materials, but Wilson did little more than push the materials around with a twig that he had been using to poke the fire, not directly touching any of it.  Really anyone could have built the science machine, but the more technical items always seemed to work better when Wilson built them (much to Winona’s ire), and they were probably hoping him playing scientist would bring him out of his funk.

Playing.  That’s all I ever did with any of my education.  I’m a hobbyist, not a scientist.

 

“Well this is a lovely picture.  A shame you couldn’t have been this well behaved before.  We all would have been in better situations.”

“Go away, Maxwell,” Wilson said dully, not looking up at the obnoxious man.  This only prompted the magician to sit down beside him though. Wilson tried to ignore him, but a puff of smoke in his direction would cause him to start coughing, breaking his composure.  “Damn it Maxwell, take that somewhere else!  Where did you even find a cigar around here?! We were all just revived!”

“I don’t find them, I make them.  I’ve learned to be resourceful after you so rudely removed me from my throne,” Maxwell spoke, still with his tone of royalty. “It’s hard work to acquire the finer things in life here, and I shall enjoy them where I please.”

“You haven’t done any hard work since the day we decided to let you stay in the group with us instead of running you off for kidnapping all of us, or executing you on sight every time you revived,” Wilson growled.  “Try bringing in a full day’s worth of cutting logs, or gathering stone.”

“Now why should I do that when I have all the rest of you better suited to sweating to do such things?”

Wilson didn’t bother to pursue the conversation, too tired and irritated at the course of the day.  Instead he went upwind of the fire and Maxwell’s cigar before putting down a bed roll.  Maybe this could all just be one convoluted nightmare from the fumes of his chemistry equipment and he would wake up in his own bed…

“Sweet dreams, Higgsbury.”

 

* * *

 

A forest dense with foliage, and shrouded by the dark of the night, made worse by a veil of thin fog hanging in the air.  All was quiet aside from the occasional brushing sound of the leaves as they were traveled through.  Ahead, a slow, continuous movement in the fog, a bushy tail, that of a red fox, who occasionally looked back at the one following it.  Eventually the forest gave way to a clearing, an open hill upon which a house sat abandoned, beginning to decay.  The fox paused, looking back again and making a brief noise, then began to prowl forward towards the house, slowly circling and approaching it with caution.  The back was in worse shape, a hole torn by lightning and fire, a portion of the floors above collapsed by the strain of a great weight.  Among the rubble something sat awkwardly, shrouded by the darkness and the rubble.  A machine…

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Mmm… that dream again… I wonder if Maxwell’s causing it…

 

Wilson sat up, rubbing the side of his head to chase out the cobwebs as he roused.  He was having it frequently now, the dream of how his house had aged.  Every time he had the dream he got a little closer to the house.  If that was him.  He was never sure if that was supposed to be himself in the dream following the fox, or if he was meant to be something else and seeing through their eyes.  Really he didn’t even know why there was a fox in the dream either, other than that it was one of the few critters that remained around the place after he had moved in.  Most other wildlife seemed to have moved out after the first fire, but occasionally he’d see a curious fox poking around in the bushes at the edge of the clearing, or being brazen enough in the evening to investigate his trashcans.  Perhaps in his mind that was the only creature bold enough to venture up to his house after he’d cursed it with building that portal.  Or maybe it was just the fact that red was his favorite color, and it was the first thing his mind went to when filling the cast for a half-lucid nigh time delusion.

Wilson pushed the dream out of his mind as he rubbed his eyes, taking in stock of the camp.  It was already mid-day, most of the rest of their ‘troop’ had already gotten to work or otherwise left the camp.  I should get to work too. No reason for me to be to be a lazy leech like Maxwell living off of other people’s work.  Sulking isn’t going to get anything done.

Wilson took a moment to take a deep breath, then gave one final sigh.  “Alright science, time to get to it.”

 

 

 

 

The rest of the day went quickly by, the bounty of resources provided by the other survivors making Wilson’s work go swiftly.  Perhaps he wasn’t fully losing the knowledge, as he was remembering what materials went into his creations, it was just a matter of remembering how to put everything together, like a word on the tip of your tongue struggling to get out without a hint.  Or maybe Maxwell and Charlie were somehow blocking the knowledge just to inconvenience me into doing everything all over again.  Wilson decided not to dwell on it, instead throwing himself into making gear for everyone from the materials they’d provided.  By the time dusk had arrived, he had assembled a backpack for everyone, each loaded with goods and tools, even one for Maxwell, though he suspected it would go unused.  Wilson was finally starting to feel pretty good about the situation, until a familiar smokey scent caught his nostrils.

“Well it’s about time, Higgsbury,” Maxwell spoke as he came up behind Wilson, smoking that cigar again.  Or maybe it was a new one, Wilson couldn’t tell.

“Maxwell, just what is it in there you’re smoking?” The scientist would ask.

Maxwell seemed briefly surprised, then gave Wilson a suspicious look.  “Why the sudden interest in my recreation, Higgsbury?”

“I had a weird dream last night.  The last time I had it you were also smoking one of those cigars that same night.”

“Ah.  Allay your fears, my furry friend, I don’t have anything hallucinogenic in my cigars.  Any delusions your twisted little mind might be dreaming up are strictly your own fault.”

My fault?” Now Wilson was irritated. “I don’t know, I would think perhaps the person who kidnapped me into a twisted. nightmarish version of a wilderness might have the most to do with any weird dreams I’m having.”

“Ah, but I didn’t kidnap you,” Maxwell countered.  “I just gave you some knowledge that might be useful, and pointed out an interesting little gizmo.  You were the one who decided to build and test it, with some minimal encouragement from me.  I can’t help it that you never realized that without anything else to offer in your place, that you’d wind up being the test subject for it.”

That, for Wilson, was the last straw on his already worn-thin patience.  With no more warning the dropping the tool he had been working with, the scientist turned on Maxwell to attack him. Wilson had little time to do more than grab Maxwell before the others at camp intervened, separating them before the scientist could strangle the magician or worse.

“That’s it! I’m done with this!!  I’m tired of being your passive little punching bag, Maxwell!” Wilson shouted from where Willow and Wigfrid were holding him back, Wolfgang having grabbed Maxwell by the scruff of his suit to keep him out of reach of Wilson, barely.

“Easy now there, lad. No need to get riled up over that dark mage’s mangy hide,” Wigfrid tried to consul. Wilson would move away from Maxwell, pulling out of the grip of the two women, looking even more angry now.

“He’s done this to all of us, and you’re all protecting him!?  I’m not standing for this anymore!  Let him deal with and die in his torture chamber on his own!  I’m done with ALL of this,” He turned swiftly from the group, grabbing up one of the backpacks and throwing it over his shoulder, starting to storm out of camp.

“Wilson! Where are you going, it’s almost night you dork!” Willow yelled after him.

“I’ve got a torch.  I’m setting my own camp.  Good riddance,” Wilson growled.  And with that he disappeared among the trees, leaving the shocked survivors in his wake.

 

 

* * *

 

 

Knock-knock-knock

 

“Come in, Willow.”

“...Wow...”

She had been expecting a campfire and a few chests, but as Willow cautiously opened and entered the gate of Wilson’s new location, what she found was a wood walled, fully stocked camp with storage, cook pot, drying racks, a tent, workbench, even an alchemy engine.

“It’s…nice…” She finally decided.  “Big, for..you know, one overnight…”
“I build fast when I’m motivated, and can’t sleep…” Wilson answered, sitting on a log near his fire pit, his tone and expression somewhere between irritated and… sad.

“About last night… we’re all sorry,” Willow started to say.  Wilson looked surprised, if not alarmed.

“Oh no, it’s not your fault! Not anyone’s fault.  Except mine,” Wilson answered, looking dejected again.  “It’s my fault Maxwell’s here to make us miserable.  I got him off the throne.  I didn’t kill him when I had the chance to when we met in the wilderness once I was off the throne.  I helped and fed him when I realized he wasn’t capable of surviving in his own world he’d created.  And I was the one that protected him and said we shouldn’t stoop to his level, when we all started to gather together and the rest of you wanted to lynch him for everything he did to us.”

“Well, you were right,” Willow said sitting down beside him. “We’re not murderous madmen like he was.  And he would’ve just come back anyways if we’d killed him with how this stupid place works.  We would’ve been wasting our time.  We’ve all had our snapping point with him, it was finally your turn.  If you want to stay away from us for awhile, we understand.”

“I don’t want to leave you guys, I just don’t want to be around Maxwell for a while,” Wilson decided.  “I’m not moving out or anything, I’ll still be around camp.  I sorta just want someplace I can go to when he gets to be too much.  I think I’ll use this place as a laboratory.  Some place I can mess around with things, without worrying about being too close to the rest of you, if something goes wrong…”

“Well I guess it’s good to have a backup camp.  In case I burn it down, you know, or Woody goes sleep-walking as the beaver again and chews up anything made of wood at the camp,” Willow said, looking towards the still-open gate.  “We, uh.. just kinda figured you’d wind up going father away than a 10 minute walk around the trees…”

“Well there wasn’t a lot of time before night, and like I said I didn’t want to get too far from you guys, just Maxwell.  He does so little he’d probably be out of breath before he got halfway here,” Wilson mused.

“Yeah.  Maybe if you keep away from him for a bit those dreams will settle down.”

“Ms. Wickerbottom mentioned that, eh?” Wilson asked.  “Yeah I asked her before if she knew what might be causing it, since she knows so much about all sorts of random things.  Wasn’t really much that helped, just a lot of possibilities.  I guess I’m getting homesick, thinking about what’s happened to my place since I haven’t been around. I suppose I should just be happy I’m not having actual nightmares.  And that I lived so far out of the way that no-one should stumble onto that portal before it decays.”  I guess that’s one good thing about being on bad terms with the rest of my family, no-one cares to check when you’ve been gone for too long.

 

“Alright.  Well, I’d better get back to the main camp, let everyone know what’s going on,” Willow would say, starting to get up. “Do you.. want to come along, maybe?”

“Sorry, no.  I think it’s too soon for me to see Maxwell again.  Please give everyone my sincerest apologies,” Wilson would answer.

“Is there anything we can do?” Willow asked.

“Yes, actually.  Can you try to find out what Maxwell’s been putting in his cigars?”

“What, do you want some of that nasty stuff?” Willow was giving Wilson a weird look.

“No, I want to get rid of whatever his source is.  I swear he’s only making those things just to torture the rest of us,” Wilson said with an annoyed look at the thought of it.

“I hear that.  Even I won’t light those things for him,” She said making a face.  “I’ll have everyone keep an eye out.”

“Thanks Willow.”

 

 

 

 

The next few days went on without much trouble out of the ordinary.  Wilson received frequent visits from the other survivors (minus Maxwell who was wisely staying away, and WX-78 who just didn’t care), and he made visits to the main camp as well to upgrade and maintain the equipment.  It was by the fourth day that Wilson realized that he hadn’t seen Maxwell at all the entire time.

“Yeah, that purple-suited devil hasn’t been around much.  Pops in now and then, and sleeps overnight at the camp, but otherwise he’s been scarce,” Woodie would say after Wilson had inquired.  “Me and Lucy tried to follow him a couple of times, but he’s a wily one, keeps giving us the slip.”

“He’s so scrawny it’s hard to tell him apart from a tree trunk!” The talking axe piped up.

“Thanks, I guess.  You haven’t noticed him doing anything strange when he has been around, have you?” Wilson asked.

“Not really.  The robot’s been acting suspicious, though.  The walking can’s been swiping supplies here and there, getting defensive if he gets caught and trying to divert our attention.  We’re used to him trying to make off with the gears to eat, but it’s been regular stuff.  Rocks and twigs, grass ropes, that sorta stuff.  Ms. Wickerbottom thinks he’s taken enough stuff to make his own camp by now.”

“Maybe.  He’s never really cared about any of us, other than that the more of us there are around, the less likely he’s going to be targeted,” Wilson answered, rubbing his chin in thought, puzzling over the behavior as well.  “You haven’t seen him and Maxwell together, have you?”

“Not that I can recall.  How about you, Lucy?”

“Nope, they’ve been staying away from each other when they’re at the camp.”

“That’s strange.  They seemed to be getting pretty friendly with each other on the last world,” Wilson said, now suspicious as well.

“You think the ‘bot and the ‘suit are in cahoots with each other?” Woodie asked.

“Maybe.  WX steals the supplies while Maxwell sets up camp,” Wilson surmised. “Or he’s just running distraction while Maxwell is up to other mischief.  We’d better keep an eye on the both of them…” Wilson then frowned. “IF I can keep an eye on them.  I haven’t seen either of them since I set up my lab.”

“No worries, Wils, Lucy and I’ll keep an eye out for them.  We’ll deal them some swift woodlands justice if they’re up to trouble,” Woodie said proudly, holding up Lucy.

“Just try to keep ‘em in one piece.  I’ll have some questions for them once they get caught at something,” Wilson answered, picking up his backpack to head out.

“Where you off to now?” Woodie asked.

“Back to the lab, I got a lot of work to do.  Winter will be here soon and I want to get equipment ready for spring before we get stuck huddling by the campfires all winter.  I’d rather not be trying to set up the lightning rods again while the thunderstorms are are already on top of us,” Wilson answered.

“Haha, that was a fun night.  Good thing WX took the hits instead.  I can still smell smoke on him sometimes,” Woodie laughed.  “Just make sure you’re getting some sleep, Wils.  The dark circles around your eyes are looking worse than normal.”

“Maybe once I get the equipment done.  I haven’t exactly been eager at the prospect of dreaming again.  The only dreams I’ve had lately are making me homesick.”

“Home’s wherever you make it, so long as you got the people around you that you care about.  Ain’t that right, Lucy?”

“Oh you’re so sweet, Woodie!”

Wilson frowned, starting to head out.  He knew what Woodie had meant, about the other people they’d become friends with that were here with them in the Constant, but now he was feeling homesick again.  He might not have gotten along with his family…but it would’ve been nice to see them again.  Maybe I should’ve thought about that before I moved out into the middle of no-where with no way to reach human society…even if they were jerks… 

His mood now sour instead of homesick, Wilson marched himself back to his lab, throwing himself into his work.  What did it matter now what his family was up to? He was here now, all he could do was try to make the best of it.

 

 

* * *

 

 

The fog… the walk through the forest.. the approach of the house… the eerie stillness all around… All was the same as before, creeping once again closer to the machine in the dark.  And then… pausing…

 

Slowly the gaze traveled around the room, trying to see details in the dark, searching for something unseen… The fox took a step at a time closer, moving with great caution, gazing at the machine…

 

The movement was sudden, the unnatural glow of the machine as it sprang to life, like the switch thrown by unseen hands.  In an instant those hands shot forward, shadows incarnate, grabbing the fox and yanking it into the darkness, swallowed by the shadows before it could finish uttering a yelp.

 

The wandering gaze of the unseen had snapped back to the portal at the light and the movement, but it had all happened too quick for it to have taken any action. Around the portal the shadows had begun to swell up, starting to move towards the gazer, but a different source of light would cause them to shudder, shrinking back and disappearing entirely, leaving the portal and the rubble in the room now fully visible.  Everything inside the house had been left utterly destroyed, except the portal…

 

The gaze turned once more on the portal, everything else seeming to lose focus as it stared at the malicious machine.  And then with great speed it moved forward, rushing to the portal…

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Wilson woke with a start, looking around in panic, gasping.  Slowly he started to calm down, putting a hand to his head to clear the cold sweat on his brow.  He was at his workbench, having fallen asleep in the middle of his project.  It was full night now, but his fire was still lit, so he couldn’t have been asleep very long.  Tonight was the full moon, so it wouldn’t have mattered, but the still burning fire gave him some comfort.

Wilson pushed his seat away from the work bench, trying to rub the sleep from his eyes, and the dream from his mind.  The eerie feeling continued to hang around him though, causing him great discomfort.  Why would the shadows care about snatching a woodlands animal?  Why was he having these dreams now-turned nightmare in the first place?  Why did he even care about a stupid delusion about some place he could never get back to?

Wilson got up from his seat, heading quickly for his gate without bothering to grab any supplies, just wanting to be out of his camp.  After a few moments walk in the cold night air the creepy feeling would leave him, but he did not feel any better.  I want to go home… not back to that house.. back to those woods.  I want to go… home… 

Wilson turned his head towards the sky, staring at the heartless ‘moon’ for several moments in anguish before he let his head drop back down, starting to rub his eyes before the tears could finish forming.  A gentleman did not cry, despite whatever the circumstances.  He needed to be strong for the people around him.  But he was so tired… It was like when Charlie took the powers of the throne from him, she also took a piece of himself as well.  Perhaps that was the price of his freedom from the throne, that he could never be the same again.

The cold, quiet air seemed to be helping, Wilson slowly calming down.  Maybe the breakdown was inevitable, but he was glad he didn’t have it in front of the others.  But where do I go from here…

Wilson hugged himself with his arms, shivering as he finally started to feel the bite of the cold night.  Winter was almost on top of them now, much quicker than normal.  He didn’t have the luxury of sulking anymore, he needed to get back to work.

It was as he was turning to head back to his lab that a movement caught his eye, something moving in the darkness at the edge of the trees.  The eerie feeling started to creep back up Wilson’s spine as the man turning to look for the movement.  He couldn’t see anything moving now that he was looking for it, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there…  Then a different movement caught his eye, something more distant.  A human form?  Squinting into the dark, Wilson soon realized what he saw skulking about in the nighttime air was none other than Maxwell, whose gaze was focused intently on the ground.  He seemed most focused on the flowers, pausing when he would encounter one, inspecting it thoroughly before moving onto the next.  He must have been looking for evil flowers, which bloomed most often under the pale light of the full moon.

“Looking for Nightmare Fuel components?”

Maxwell jumped at the sudden noise, straightening up quickly from the flower he had been stooping to inspect, then looking annoyed once he realized who had come up on him.

“Higgsbury.  Shouldn’t you be busy getting your hands caught in some gears or burning your workbench?”

“I thought I might enjoy the night air before making my workbench into charcoal,” Wilson replied acidly.  “Why are you skulking around so late?”

“What does it look like to you? I’m gathering resources,” Maxwell replied in his royal tone.

“For your own twisted motives or for everyone?”

“Dear little Higgsbury, when will you learn, whatever most benefits me also benefits everyone else.”

“We need to to talk about how exactly your cigars are not benefiting everyone else,” Wilson answered in a deadpan tone.

“Now now, Higgsbury, we went over this before…” Maxwell started to lecture, but Wilson was no-longer listening to him.  His eye had caught a movement again, but this time he saw it more clearly - one of the shadow creatures.  A chill went down his spine again - he had no headache, none of the physical symptoms he had whenever his sanity was in danger - but he could still see the shadow creature, as well as others, starting to creep through the trees, moving as though they had purpose.

“Are you listening to me, Higgsbury?!” Maxwell barked, annoyed at the scientist seeming to tune him out.  He followed Wilson’s gaze to the trees, and then he too seemed surprised at the sight of the moving shadows.  “Isn’t the camp… Higgsbury!”

Wilson had abandoned Maxwell, taking off after the shadows at a run, having too realized what way the shadows were traveling.  He only caught occasional glimpses of the darkness incarnate, but after chasing them for a short while he realized their destination was somewhere else, missing the main camp by a fair distance.  They were headed for the portal…

Wilson slowed down, moving into the treeline, trying to give himself some cover.  He almost jumped as Maxwell arrived behind him, out of breath, also doing the same.
“You annoying… little midget… you just left me….”

“Quiet!” Wilson hissed, looking back to the Florid Postern, watching as the shadows settled in around the plants and trees, hiding themselves a short distance from the portal, then making no other movements.  They were just… waiting for something…

The normally invisible passage of the portal would become visible, glowing faintly with its swirling energy as a shapeless blob of shadows seemed to melt out of it. Wilson looked briefly at Maxwell, seeing an equally puzzled expression on the magician as he gazed at the lump of shadows.  He’d never seen the shadows actually use the portal, they seemed able to move themselves between worlds without direct aid, so long as some kind of bridge had been made between them, like the Florid Postern, or the Teleportato.

Wilson’s attention was drawn back to the portal, the blob of shadows moving away from the portal, and the hidden shadows rearing up from their hiding places, starting to gather around the portal like shapeless snakes poised to strike… The glow on the portal became brighter, behaving now as it would for a normal arrival, emitting a brief surge of light as the new form emerged.  In that instant the shadows struck, all surging forward, striking like a hammer from all angles before the form had finished appearing, surrounding and swarming it.  

Alarmed, Wilson started to run towards the portal, but he got no more than two steps before he was yanked to a stop, grabbed by his arm by Maxwell.  “Don’t be stupid, Higgsbury!”

“We have to help!” Wilson yelled.

“What do you expect to do!? We don’t even know what that is!” Maxwell snapped back, digging his fingernails into Wilson’s arm to prevent his escape.  Wilson tried to fight the grip, but a strange noise turned his head back to the portal.  The shadows were changing shape, looking more like a bubble, straining to stay small but being stretched to its limit. An instant later and the breaking point was reached, a bright flash of light blinding both humans and causing both of them to shield their eyes, Maxwell releasing Wilson on reflex.  The scientist tried to rub the glare out of his eyes, looking back to the portal again to see fragments of shadows trying to gather themselves back, scattered in a wide radius around a glowing form.

A white body that shined not with the light of the moon, but from its own glowing light; four legs with cloven hooves, stamping angrily at the ground; a long, lion-like tail that lashed back and forth; all connected to a horse-like body that ended in a glowing spiral horn, brandished threateningly towards the first blob of shadow that had emerged, now also laying partway exposed to reveal a trapped red fox, crying out for aid.  Wilson stood in utter shock, the continuation of his last lucid dream now playing out right before his concision eyes in alarming clarity.

Wilson almost took a step forward, but he was suddenly yanked back again, Maxwell having grabbed the collar of the scientist’s shirt, pulling him into the trees. “STOP IT Maxwell!! Let me-!”

“Shut up, Higgsbury!” Maxwell hissed, clamping a hand over the scientist’s mouth.  Wilson tried to pry the hand off of his mouth, but Maxwell’s demeanor made him stop short, greatly concerned.  He’d never seen the magician look so alarmed.  Bright flashes of light, followed by surges of consuming shadows, danced among the trees that Maxwell had made them hide in, Wilson’s eyes only able to catch brief glimpses as shadow and light warred at the Florid Postern.  Then a single brilliant flash, followed by an overwhelming silence…  Shadows seemed to settle back into the area.  Normal shadows, not the living manifestations of nightmare fuel.  This time Wilson was able to gently pry Maxwell’s grip off of him, the magician not trying to grab him again.  Wilson crept carefully through the trees, pushing aside the branches to gaze out at the portal.

Light glowed in front of the portal, the unicorn nuzzling the red fox, which seemed no worse for wear, leaning back against the unicorn’s muzzle.  Its little friend now safe, the unicorn straightened up, for the first time taking stock of where it was.  The shadows that had tried to swarm it were gone, all crawled back into invisibility in the darkness.  It looked back at the portal, now dark and closed, then gazed up at the sky, and the shining full ‘moon’ above.  Finally it turned is gaze towards the ground and the surrounding area, and then, towards Wilson…

The scientist found himself frozen, unable to move, not daring to.  Its eyes were locked upon him for he didn’t know how long, staring at him, staring into him… Finally the unicorn turned, looking back towards the fox briefly before it turned its whole body towards another stand of trees, taking off at a brief pace, followed quickly by the little fox.  By the time Wilson finally moved, it was already gone, lost in the fog among the trees.

 

 

Edited by Raiden_Sola

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Raiden_Sola    10

* Chapter 2 *

Spoiler


 

“Well if you’re gonna dream, dream big!”

“It wasn’t a dream!!”

Wilson sat annoyed at the fire pit of the main camp, glaring at his fellow survivors as they were generally amused with is story.  Not a single one of them were believing a word of what he was saying.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Higgsbury, but I just cannot confirm your story,” Wickerbottom would say.  “I may have been busy with Woodie sleep-walking as his beaver form, but I certainly would have noticed lights coming from the portal.  We are not camped that far from it.”

“The trees and the shadows might have blocked the light, they were all over the place trying to contain it,” Wilson countered.

“It is still highly unlikely they could have stopped all of it coming through, especially if they were the losers as your story depicts.  It is however I wonderful story; I will record it in one of my books if you like,” Wickerbottom offered.  Wilson glared at her but said nothing, just seething.  He then noticed another form coming into camp, that of Maxwell who had left early that morning.

“Oh good, you’re still here,” Maxwell observed, sounding less than thrilled.

“Maxwell was there, he can confirm it,” Wilson would say, pointing towards the magician.

“Don’t try to involve me in your delusion, Higgsbury.  I found you out sleepwalking near the portal while I was looking for fuel for the fire.  You almost injured me, having a tantrum while you were staggering around.”

“That’s a complete lie!” Wilson yelled, outraged.  But unfortunately it was Maxwell that the rest of the group seemed to be agreeing with, due to Wilson’s recent lack of sleep.

“Yon shadows are playing tricks upon your restless mind.  A good night’s sleep will ease your worries,” Wigfrid would say, her sentiments echoed by the group, followed by offers and advice from the others on how he might rest easier.  

Wilson brooded for several moments, letting them say their pieces before he got up, starting to head out of the camp.  “I’ll be at my lab.  If any of my friends show up they can just stay away from me until they come to their senses.”

 

 

Wilson kept his gate latched for the rest of the day, ignoring the occasional knocks and calls coming from the other side, focusing on his work.  It reminded him of being back with his family - they thought his dreams of being a scientist were so cute and endearing, but that he should get his head out of the clouds and his feet back on the ground.  They were so happy when he was accepted into college, then so disappointed when he wasn’t going to be a doctor or a lawyer.  Wilson couldn’t remember now why he’d been getting homesick.  I wish I was back on my own on one of Maxwell’s islands.  Chester never looked at me like a crazy person when I shared my ideas with him.  I miss Chester…

The next day as Wilson started his work, a sort of strange flopping noise caught his attention.  He looked up to see a bag having been thrown over his wall, a few berries spilling out and a sandwich poking through the opening.  He would have guessed that maybe Willow was brazen enough to make a delivery in such matter, but he really couldn’t know, nor did he bother to look or ask. He just let the bag lay on the ground where it had landed.  He didn’t want a peace offering, he wanted someone to listen to him.

Eventually Wilson did get hungry, but the bag remained untouched in favor of going out to forage himself.  He spotted Maxwell at one point, again searching about in the fields, possibly for the evil flowers again.  With the effects of the full moon lasting for another night there was still opportunity for him to find some even after the previous night’s chaos.  

Wilson made an annoyed huff, then went in another direction, not wanting to have another encounter with him.  He was curious about why Maxwell wanted to cover up the incident, but he never expected to get a straight answer out of him even if he did confront him.  The former Shadow King had so much knowledge about this world but he refused to share it.  Perhaps he was afraid of retribution from the shadows, or from “Them”, who or whatever they were, for sharing their secrets.  Or perhaps Maxwell realized that knowledge was the only edge he had on the survivors and horded it jealously.  At times Maxwell would say he couldn’t remember things, but Wilson was not entirely convinced that he wasn’t just using that as a cover to avoid a subject.

The thoughts left Wilson as he started to come across carrots and berry bushes and he got busy gathering.  This food wouldn’t be around for much longer with winter on the way, he needed to make the best use of it now before the cold set in.  As he finished gathering he became aware of something watching him.  Not the normal feeling of constantly being watched that they had all grown accustomed to and ignored, this was a different one.  Wilson turned his head quickly and managed to catch a glimpse of WX-78 ducking back behind a tree, but not soon enough to avoid being spotted.

“Stop following me,” Wilson growled in warning, putting away the last of the food in his backpack and starting to head back to his camp.  He didn’t bother looking back, but he could hear the sounds behind him of the robot attempting to sneak stealthily after him.  Wilson headed straight back to his laboratory without stopping, slamming the gate behind him and locking it once more.  Outside, the robot watched the gate for a few minutes, then seeming satisfied that Wilson was not coming back out, left the area.  

Inside the walls, Wilson began putting away the gathered food, then looked over at the abandoned bag on the ground, now feeling a bit guilty about leaving such a valuable resource on the floor to rot.  He went and picked up the bag to put away its contents, but as he looked down for the spilled berries he realized they were all gone.  The birds must have come by and eaten them, perhaps.  He looked in the bag to survey the rest of the contents, but not having looked in it before he had no idea if anything was missing.  The edge of the sandwich though looked like it might have been nibbled on.  Wilson frowned, but eventually put the remaining food away in his fridge, then paused to look around his camp.  He had replaced the wooden walls for less flammable stone, but now he was concerned about security.  If WX was spying on him, he could be sure Maxwell was as well.  He’d need to build them taller, along with everything else he was trying to work on.  Wilson sighed, his mind calculating the work load he was putting on himself as he returned to his workbench.  At least he wouldn’t be bored for the next few days…

 

 

“THE SCIENTIST HAS RETURNED TO HIS HOVEL.”

“Good,” Maxwell sneered, peering in the direction WX-78 had come from, just in case there was anyone else out and about.  “Higgsbury and his scientific hogwash is the last thing we need on our hunt, he’ll ruin the whole thing.”

“WHAT ARE WE HUNTING FOR?” WX-78 queried.

“That unicorn, of course.”

“YOU SAID THE SCIENTIST HUMAN WAS DREAMING.”

“I know what I said!” Maxwell snapped.  “I need the rest of those nitwits to forget about it, stay out of the way.  A pure creature like that won’t want anything to do with the rabble I assembled here for my amusement.  All of them wandering about will drive it off.  I need to find some way to trap it, some kind of appropriate bait…”

“WHAT KIND OF BAIT IS USED FOR WORTHLESS MYTHICAL PACIFIST ANIMALS?”

“You have a lot to learn, robot.  Those things are not passive in any way, it’s probably one of the most dangerous creatures you can run into, especially if you have shadow magic,” Maxwell told WX-78.  “The shadows showed me a few of them before in the human world.  I tried even to snatch them here to the Constant, but the shadows cannot touch a light creature, real light does them harm.”

“WE HAVE SEEN THE SHADOWS IN THE DAYLIGHT HERE,” WX-78 reminded.

“The daylight here isn’t real, that’s not a real sun up there,” Maxwell answered.

“WHAT IS IT?”

“That’s not important right now, focus on the matter at hand,” He told the robot.  Oh Charlie what were you thinking bringing that creature here?  Or was it your choice?  Did the shadows go after it of their own accord?  Or are They manipulating all of us again for their purposes?  Maxwell pushed the thoughts out of his mind.  He needed to focus as well.

“WHAT BAIT WILL WE USE?” WX-78 prompted again when Maxwell hadn’t spoken for a few moments.

“Those beasts are attracted to innocent souls, something running in VERY short supply here,” Maxwell mused.  “Most of the creatures I created here are soulless or monsters, or both.  The only real souls are the humans and the shadows, and the corruption in all of them will keep the beast at distance…. That’s it.  We need that fox.”

“WHAT FOX?”

“The fox that came through the portal, the one Higgsbury had been dreaming about.  That unicorn came through the portal chasing the little critter, it must be a friend of it.  And it’s the closest thing we have to an innocent soul that it would stay nearby to,” Maxwell decided.  “It will be far easier to trap that little beast than the big one.”

“WHY WAS THE SCIENTIST DREAMING OF THE ANIMALS BEFORE THEY CAME HERE?”

“Ah yes, that.  Higgsbury was having some premonitions from the portal still in the human world,” Maxwell answered.  “He used a blood ritual to power the portal, and some of his essence is still there, and will be until the portal finally runs out of power.  When conditions are right it’s possible for him to become aware of what’s happening around the portal.  He may have been getting stimulated by the energy of that beast nearing the portal.”

“BUT HE WAS DREAMING FOR SEVERAL DAYS.”

“Time is different here, he may have gotten fragments of the vision while the trans-location was happening.  I’m not sure how much actual time passes to move someone from there to here,” Maxwell answered.  “That’s all beside the point, we need to design a fox trap…”

 

 

 

 

Wilson woke the next day to the sharp bite of the cold morning air.  He quickly stoked the dead fire back to life, wishing he still had his fur bedroll to curl up in.  Charlie had to have been changing the length of the seasons, or she bumped them a few days forward.  Either way it felt like it’d be snow anytime now, and they’d barely finished setting back up.  Wilson looked around his camp to remind himself of his progress before noticing a piece of paper poking up from under his gate.  Someone must have found the swamp, he surmised, retrieving it to find a ‘heartfelt’ note from Willow telling him to stop being stupid.  He almost put it into the fire pit, but then decided against it, instead putting it under a gear on his workbench as to not blow away.  Last thing I need is Willow deciding to do the same to my lab if she found out.  Unless that’s what she prefers to do with letters when she’s done with them.  Sometimes I just don’t know about that woman…

 

Wilson opened the gate to look around, finding no survivors, but there was some logs an a couple of wrapped packages out by his door - more peace offerings.  The scientist sighed, moving the goods inside, then retrieving the components he’d been working on from the workbench, the parts for the lightning rods.  At least let them see I’m still at work, not just hiding out.  He stayed alert on his way to the main camp, both keeping an eye out for Maxwell and WX-78, as well as trying to memorize the resources in the area.  There was still some berry bushes to be harvested, as well as a handful of carrots, resources that would soon be gone for the season.  Hopefully the others had found some more reliable winter food sources, as there was no telling how long this winter might be if Charlie was changing the length of the seasons for them.

Lost in those thoughts, Wilson was taken by surprise as something abruptly came down over his head, covering is eyes.  He reached up quickly, yanking off the item blinding him, looking around in alarm for his attacker.

“Good morning, friend! Autumn will soon end, so there’s a hat to warm you head!”

“Goodness Wortox, you startled me!  I’ve had too many surprises lately,” Wilson exclaimed, looking at the hat and adjusting it before putting it back on his head.  “Thank you, it has gotten cold awfully quick.  You found the beefalo?  We were wondering where you’d gotten to.”

The red, furry imp was bounding around as though he couldn’t contain himself.  He still had a few hats in his hands, and he was probably amused at the prospect of playing more pranks to deliver them.  “I went too and fro, and the beefalo found, and had great fun shaving them all around,” Wortox answered in his usual constant rhymes.  “But on the way back I had a great frown, as I ran from some hounds as they came from their mounds.  Some fur I lost, but most I saved, for it will be a while before again they be shaved.”

“Well thank you greatly, this will help a lot.  I hope those mounds aren’t too close.  The last thing we need right now is a hound attack,” Wilson said with some concern.

“I went to the book-lady and told her the way, she says she’ll make maps within the day,” Wortox answered.  “Off I go do deliver more hats, and see if I cannot find some more snacks!”

“Alright, be careful.  Good day and thank you,” Wilson waved as the imp bounded off.  Strange creature he was, but always helpful, and useful abilities.  Quite the curiosity that one.  He’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to the description of a demon, but in this hell he’s one of the nicer residents.  Wilson would have liked to have studied him sometime, but he didn’t think he’d ever get Wortox to sit still for more than two seconds.  

After that encounter Wilson was not surprised to arrive at a camp full of winter hats.  He did not go out of his way to greet anyone, but he was a polite gentleman to anyone who approached him.  He remained in an all-business tone though, setting up the lightning rods as efficiently as possible, then gathering his tools and heading out of the main camp again.

“Mr. Higgsbury.”

The sound of Wickerbottom’s voice made Wilson pause but he did not turn back around or answer.

“I do hope you won’t hold it against the others for any ill feelings you might have over my lack of support for the previous incident,” The librarian would speak, her tone diplomatic, but not apologetic.  She too was remaining all-business about the matter.  Wilson still didn’t answer her.  “I am assembling a map for our new island of residence.  I should like to know If I should mark your second camp as your place of work or your place of residence.”

“I haven’t decided yet,” Wilson would finally answer after a moment.  “You can mark it as my laboratory.”

“Very well,” Wickerbottom responded.  “I believe the others are planning some small form of an end-of-autumn festival tonight.  Should we be expecting you to join us?”

“I have a lot of work to do… but I will probably need a break at some point.  I may stop by if I have a few moments to spare.”

“Then we look forward to your attendance.  Good day, Mr. Higgsbury.”

“A pleasant day to you, Ms. Wickerbottom.”  And with that Wilson headed out.

 

 

Wilson observed the ground on the way back towards his laboratory, starting to see the path being worn from everyone’s frequent travels back and forth.  Maybe I should stay at the main camp, it would waste a lot less energy and therefore less food than all this walking back and forth.  The thought of food made his stomach growl, remembering now he’d headed out without having breakfast at either camp.  But he remembered the berry bushes from his earlier trip, and in no-time he had arrived at them, eagerly stopping off to get a quick snack for the walk.  As he started to pick the berries, though, he realized some were missing from earlier, the bottom half of the bushes having been picked clean, leaving only the higher-up berries.  A turkey certainly would have taken all the berries if it had been one of them.  Perhaps it was Wortox playing a trick?  Wilson looked around, not seeing anything else out of the ordinary, and though he felt like he was being watched, he couldn’t tell any difference from the usual unseen eyes on him, presumably Charlie or the shadows.  With nothing else he could do about the situation, Wilson just picked the remaining berries and started down the trail again, back to the lab for more work.

It was as Wilson sat down at his workbench to start again that a loud thumping would come from his front gate.  “Hey Egghead, open up!”

Winona.  After that greeting, he wasn’t eager to let her in.  “I’m rather busy, is this important?”

“Yeah well you just made me waste a whole day!  I was working on the lightning rods!  That’s a dirty trick sneaking them in under my nose.”

That made Wilson smile, especially with her constant teasing over his experiments.  He managed not to laugh, instead covering it with clearing his throat.  “Well I was not aware you were working on them.  Perhaps you should communicate your intentions better so we don’t overlap our efforts.”

“Says the guy hiding in a stone box.”

“Was there anything else? I need to get back to work.”

“Yeah there is, have you seen Maxy or WX-78?  They never came back to camp yesterday, and they haven’t shown up today.”

That made Wilson pause, looking over to the gate.  “I saw Maxwell early yesterday looking for flowers, and I caught WX trying to follow me for a while.  They really haven’t shown back up?”

“Totally AWOL.  I know the robot wanders off a lot, but Maxy usually doesn’t miss a free meal.  If you spot them, point me towards them, I want a few words with them.”

“So do I.  I’ll keep an eye out for them.”

“Alright, I’ll see you later Egghead.  And by the way I’m getting the fire extinguishers made, so don’t bother!”

“Out of interest do you happen to be more than roughly halfway past completion?”

“Son of a… We’ll see who gets done first!”

This time Wilson didn’t try to hide his chuckle as he heard Winona take off at a run down the trail.  Now he had something to make him eager to work.

 

 

 

 

“Urgh… my back…”

Maxwell woke to pain and stiffness in his spine, having fallen asleep leaned against a tree with WX-78, trying to wait out the appearance of the fox.  After rubbing some of the stiffness out of his spine, he look over at the robot, somewhat surprised to see him now wearing one of those silly winter hats.  Had he been asleep that long that the robot left to find beefalo and came back?  Maxwell scowled, instead looking towards the traps for signs of activity.  

They had wound up making what was little more than the normal box traps, given a little extra weight with some rocks tied to the back, and baited with a tied up rabbit to entice the fox into investigating. The nearest trap had fallen over sideways instead of triggering as expected.  The rabbit was now gone, but the string that had tied it was still on the ground, having been chewed through.  Maxwell picked up the string gingerly to inspect it, wondering if the rabbit had managed the escape itself or if one of its little friends helped while they had been asleep.  He looked across the field to see the rest of the traps in similar states, toppled over sideways and the bait gone.  “Must have been a breeze overnight.  We need a better strategy…”

Maxwell looked back over to the tree where the robot was still sleeping, growing annoyed with the time they had wasted on this failed attempt.  He walked back over, loomed over the robot, and then eventually kicked him when he still failed to rouse.  “Wake up! We’ve got work to do.”

WX-78 made an alarmed noise at the sudden assault, looking around for attackers and only finding Maxwell.  “DID WE GET THE FOX?”

“No, the traps failed,” Maxwell told him.  “We need to put in an appearance back at camp, we don’t want those peasants getting curious about what we’re up to while we work out our next move…”

“YOU HAVE SOMETHING ON YOUR HEAD.”

Maxwell was puzzled at the robot’s statement, only now realizing he did feel something fuzzy around his forehead.  He immediately reached up and pulled it off, finding a winter cap in his hand… along with a large black spider clinging to the back of the hat. Maxwell yelped in alarm, tossing the hat away from him, the spider falling off and flopping to the ground on its back.  It was only after it lay there unmoving that Maxwell realized it was nothing more than some twigs and balled-up grass colored with charcoal.  Maxwell growled, stomping on the fake spider as he retrieved the hat.  He ignored the laughter of the robot as he dusted off the hat and returned it to his head.

“THE IRRATIONAL FEARS OF ORGANIC MEATBAGS ARE PLEASING,” WX-78 chimed, getting up and starting to head back for the main camp.  Maxwell gave the robot an annoyed look as he passed, but then raised an eyebrow as he watched the robot walking ahead of him.  On the back of WX’s hat was another fake spider, with a water balloon tied to it.

“Yes, well I’m sure robotic fears will be equally pleasing...”

 

 

 

 

Work had gone at a brisk pace, and though Wilson was pleased with the progress he was making, he had to remind himself he couldn’t actually finish the fire extinguishers yet.  No, the so-named “Ice Flingomatic” once running could produce large volumes of the shaved ice for snowballs to stop fires and water plants, but without some ice to prime the unit for the first run it would never get cold enough to do the job.  But that wouldn’t be an issue much longer.  As cold as the morning had been, Wilson expected to wake up tomorrow with a layer of snow around the base.

The pause in work to contemplate the weather made Wilson realize he was getting hungry again.  He had plenty of food in his fridge right now, but the strangely-harvested berry bushes he’d seen earlier were still on his mind.  He decided instead to have a look at the other nearby bushes, to check them for regrowth and see if there was any other odd patterns developing.

“Hey Wilson!!”

The scientist hadn’t even finished stepping out of the gate before Willow’s voice made him stop and turn, the firestarter running down the road to meet him.  “Hello Willow.  Did something happen?” He found himself asking, something about her giddy expression not settling well with him.

“I’ll say! We set up a wardrobe at the camp, and the shadow hands showed up and filled it up with all of our clothes!” Willow told him.

“Oh.  That’s… wonderful…” Willson could barely get the words out past the the growing sensation of… well dread.  On the last island they’d started receiving the mysterious presents with new garments for them to wear.  It may have been some form compensation for all the troubles they were being put to, or perhaps Charlie was just bored of seeing them in the same clothing.  As much as Wilson appreciated having the option of changing his attire every once in a while, there was also occasions where he found his clothing stolen and he was forced to wear the provided outfits.  Today however it seemed he would not have to worry about the shadows stealing the shirt off his back, as Willow had already taken up the job, wrapping her arm around his as though escorting him.

“Let’s go, we need to get you dressed for the party!”

“Willow I really can’t right now, I still have so much work to do.  I was just stepping out to get some food.”

“You said you’d come to the party if you had time for a break, and getting a snack is definitely a break!  Besides, we’ll have food at the party.  Now move your feet!” She demanded, starting to drag the scientist with her.  “I got the perfect thing picked out for you - the shadows brought back your tuxedo!”

Oh no, anything but the suit… Wilson dreaded.  I hate formal parties.

 

 

 

 

 

There was no party stores in the Constant to procure decorations from, but the survivors had managed to improvise some appropriate decor, decorating the camp with garland and arrangements made out of assorted colored leaves, flowers, and even a few pumpkins, probably grown from the crop plots that Wilson now observed as he and Willow walked into the camp. The accelerated growth of plant life was yet another mystery Wilson hoped to study if things ever calmed down, but that wouldn’t be anytime soon with how this world worked…

“Little science man friend!  Welcome to party!” a distinctly Russian voice called out, that of Wolfgang.  The strongman was holding his arms up in the air, numerous lanterns hanging from his hands.  “We found caves, lots of light flowers and bunny men at entrance.  Wolfgang make lanterns for everyone!”

“Thank you, Wolfgang,” Wilson answered.  “You’ll need to show me where the entrance is later.  Did you happen to observe any changes in the underground flora or fauna?  Are the bunnymen behaving any differently from normal?”

“Enough science yammering! You need to change clothes!  You can talk shop later,” Willow demanded, starting to drag Wilson away again.  She would not release him until she had pulled him over to a makeshift changing room they had created by surrounding a couple of wardrobes with high hay walls.  She gave Wilson a push inside, standing at the door and wagging her finger at him. “And I don’t want to see you come out until you’re properly dressed!”

“When did you take over for Ms. Wickerbottom?” Wilson asked with a irritable look.

“Stop sassing me or I’ll change your clothes for you if I have to!  Snap to it, mister!” Willow answered, mimicking the mentioned librarian’s tone before shutting the door behind Wilson.  It would have been a futile effort to keep fighting, and after a few minutes Wilson would emerge, dressed and groomed for the occasion.  With the exception of one detail… “Aw man, you didn’t shave your beard!” Willow complained.

“Why would I? It’s cold out,” Wilson reminded her, rubbing the hair on his chin as though to smooth it out.  He had neatened it up with a bit of trimming, but otherwise has left it untouched.  Truth be told it always made his face itch, but if he was going to have to wear the suit, Willow was going to have to deal with his beard.  And with the cold weather looming over them he would soon need the extra insulation.

The party would prove to be less of a formal occasion than necessary of their party clothes, but it helped to set the mood at least.  The party was mainly an opportunity to dine and talk at length, with discussions ranging from sharing of discoveries on their new island, planning for the future, and occasional small talk with subjects chosen almost at random.  Wilson was eventually able to talk with Wolfgang but the strongman had little information to offer of interest from the caves, nothing out of the ordinary for this strange realm.  Wilson did notice at some point that Maxwell and WX-78 were at the party as well, but as Woodie had told him earlier they were keeping away from each other.

As day turned to dusk the party would wind down, and Wilson would manage to slip away from Willow and change back into his normal clothes, insisting on returning to his laboratory to fit in a bit more work before night hit them.  He really did enjoy the opportunity to mill about and talk with the others like he was back in civilization, but the suit was always more than he could stand.  Before parting he was given the new map from Ms. Wickerbottom, and a few of the lamps from Wolfgang to help light his secondary camp.  And even Willow seemed to have finally mellowed, giving Wilson a goodbye kiss on the cheek, despite his beard.  It gave Wilson a smile as he walked down the trail - perhaps things weren’t going to be so bad this time around.

 

 

The few minutes walk back to the lab was enough to cool off Wilson’s cheerful mood, the bite of the cold air reminding him that hard times were almost upon them.  There was no doubt in his mind now, Winter was here, it just hadn’t snowed yet.

He realized as he reached has gate that he hadn’t been able to close it before Willow had nabbed him, and he was now grateful that he would not have to stop to fumble with the latch before getting inside to the fire pit.  The lanterns and other supplies he’d brought back with him were dropped unceremoniously to the ground in favor of stoking the fire, providing Wilson some much-needed heat.  Once he had stopped shivering, Wilson gathered up the supplies from the ground and got everything put away, then immediately started work on a couple of thermal stones to help hold back the cold.  In the morning he would need to acquire some more thermal clothing, either by hunting or perhaps the others had gotten some already.  It might be for the best if I just close up shop here and stay with the others through winter.  I almost forgot how hard it was being on my own.  As much as I like the quiet now and then, it’s easier on everyone if I’m not commuting back and forth.  I must be worrying them every time I head out.

 

Wilson paused suddenly, his train of thought lost as he looked around his camp.  Something wasn’t right…  Everything appeared to be in its place, nothing was different except the supplies he had brought back with him, and yet…  A movement caught his eye, and Wilson’s head snapped towards his tent, the flaps on the entrance having moved.  Another brief rustle, and out popped a form - a black nose, a red and white face, and two pointed ears.  The fox.

Wilson just stared at it, stunned for a moment, until the fox looked up sharply, spotting him.  It made a brief noise, then bolted out of the tent for the still-open gate, escaping into the cold night.

“No, wait!” Wilson called out as it ran, then immediately chided himself.  It’s a fox, stupid, it doesn’t understand language!  Wilson grabbed up one of the thermal stones and a lantern, running out into the failing light to follow the fleeing critter.  He had almost begun to give up on his memory of incident at the portal as another of his dreams, but the furry little trespasser was proof that it had happened, and it was running off into the darkness.

Wilson was able to keep sight of it into the nearby woods, and for a short time after, but he quickly lost sight of the small creature among the trees and bushes.  Even after he had lost it he kept running, trying to find any sign of it, until exhaustion and the darkness of night pulled him to a stop.  The cold air burned his lungs as he tried to catch his breath, making him cringe and shiver.  Wilson let himself drop to his knees, despaired and resigned.  There was no point trying to find it now - with the darkness all around him it could have been two feet from him and he’d never see it, if it was still there…  All the animals of Constant knew the drill, that the night monster only attacked if you were awake in the total dark, and they went to sleep before then.  But the fox was not native to here, and may have already been consumed by the darkness when Wilson chased it into the night.  He may have killed it… indirectly, but still not without fault.

A sound in the dark made Wilson’s eyes flash open and his head shoot up, the last thing someone wanted to hear in the darkness.  The hounds were gathering.  No, oh no!  It can’t be now, not now! Wilson looked around in alarm, but the darkness offered him no options other than his demise.  If there was any chance that fox was still alive and hiding nearby, his death now would ensure he never found it.  Wilson scrounged rapidly through is pockets for flint and rope, grabbing up nearby twigs to quickly fashion a spear.  He had no choice but to stand his ground, running was not an option.  He did not know the area well yet, and it would be impossible to read the map and run in the darkness, assuming he could even figure out where he was.  Even though his death would not be permanent here, it would not be without penalties - some of his strength would be taken, and he would be weakened until he could bolster himself with a ‘booster shot’ as they’d come to call it, but he was not sure they even had all the resources to make it.  And he might never find that fox again…

Wilson finished the spear, but he had no wood to make a basic armor, nor the time as a hound came charging out of the darkness at him.  The scientist managed to dodge out of the way and strike a blow on the beast, but another came at him soon after from his other side, keeping him on his toes.  More hounds were arriving, and the light of the lantern soon became Wilson’s enemy, making it difficult for him to track how many beasts were there, or where they were coming from.  He thought there were four, but there was no way for him to know for sure, nor time for him to find out as he fought for his life.

Experience was on Wilson’s side, having fought hounds many times now and learned their movements and behavior well, but his light source was a growing liability as it restricted the range of his own movements.  Monsters as they were, they had no fear of the dark and drew no attention from the night monster, allowing them to move freely where they pleased.  It was an advantage the hounds soon made use off, as one lunged out of the darkness behind Wilson and grabbed his leg as he tried to avoid it.  The scientist tumbled to the ground, yanked free from its jaws, but another immediately descended upon him.  A strike from his spear knocked that hound aside, but before Wilson could scramble back to his feet another had grabbed the spear, and a third sunk its teeth into his arm, making him release the spear involuntarily with a painful scream.  Even as he tried to fight with his bare hands and the hounds surrounded him, he knew from the blood weeping from his wounds and his strength starting to leave him that it was all over.

Time would seem to slow down for Wilson has the hounds tore at him. That and his blurred vision and loss of concentration all signs of his growing blood loss, though his mind could scarcely process it.  It was perhaps the worst way one could die in the Constant, the prolonged pain and suffering, which the hounds sometimes seemed to enjoy, allowing their prey to live long enough to bleed to death before devouring them.  And that was what these ones were doing, Wilson only mutely aware of their barks and howls as they all stood over or circled him, waiting for him to expire.  And then suddenly there was a light.

One of the hounds had been moved abruptly aside, as though struck by something.  The hounds spun to turn on a new target, Wilson forgotten on the ground.  Someone had found him and come to his aid; perhaps the others had already dealt with the hounds and rushed out to find him.  But it was too late, he realized, his vision giving way to darkness.  No amount of bandages or salves could save him from this much blood loss.  He could only hope they had the resources back at camp to revive and restore him.  I’m so sorry….

 

Blinding light suddenly rushed back to Wilson’s vision, his senses lost in searing white as energy rushed through his body, coursing through every part of him.  It felt like the surge he experienced when a red amulet was used, but they had not found any gems to make such an item, and this was somehow different.  It felt warm…

He felt the ground beneath his body, cold and hard.  He was still alive, pulled back from death at the last moment, by a means unknown to him.  The air was eerily quiet, not a single sound of running paws on the ground or baying howls into the night.  The hounds were gone, but there was still a presence…  Wilson opened his eyes slowly, adjusting to the light above him.  Standing over him was a glowing white form with blue eyes, and a single spiral horn.

 

 

Edited by Raiden_Sola

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Raiden_Sola    10

* Chapter 3 *

Spoiler


 

Light would start to peek over the morning horizon, creeping into the laboratory through the space under the front gate like long, bright fingers stretching out from the other side.  All was quiet except for the dying crackles of the fading fire, Wilson just watching silently as the fire slipped away and gave way to the rising sun.  After several moments the scientist would lift his head, not so much hearing a noise but feeling a presence, something outside his back wall, the side where his workbench was.  The walls by now had been built tall enough to keep Maxwell from snooping easily, but above the top edge of the wall part of a spiral horn was still visible.  Another moment later and a sort of scrapping noise was heard, followed immediately by the form of the red fox scrambling up onto the wall, either having jumped on or been pushed up by the unicorn.  The fox took a moment to shake itself off, then hopped down onto the workbench, pausing and sniffing many of the bits and pieces still left there from past days.

Wilson was about five feet and some-odd inches tall the last time he had measured himself, an activity he had not done in a long time, due to how much it disappointed him.  His hair added several inches, of course, but he had not ever bothered to measure the length of his hair style.  It helped to give him a rough idea of the height of the unicorn, whose own head, excluding ears and horn, he guessed to be just above six feet tall.  The exact measurements weren’t really important, but it was something scientific Wilson could focus on for a bit, instead of trying to parse the very unscientific fact that a magical creature was now pacing around in what was essentially his back yard.  Soon after the unicorn reared up, tall enough on its hind legs to reach over top of the wall, hooking its forelegs over the top of the wall to rest against it, which allowed it to gaze inside of the lab, down towards Wilson.  Wilson stared back at the white creature almost stoically for several moments, unable to conjure anything but awkward silence.  Most animals had no white in their eyes, their scleras colored to match their iris, or their eyes sized and shaped that the white wasn’t visible, but the eyes on this creature was different.  They were larger than he might have expected, and the visible sclera of its eyes were white instead of blue like its irises.  They looked almost human.  And that made the guilt even worse.

“Hello…” Wilson finally spoke, his voice so quiet it almost failed him.

“Hello,” The unicorn answered back.

Wilson had found last night that she could talk, but he hadn’t managed then to get any further than he had now, his usually over-active mind now stalling when trying to decide how to move past a basic greeting.  What did one say to a creature such as this, after everything that had happened?

You know what to say, Wilson told himself.  You just can’t get it off your tongue…

 

“...I’m sorry…”

Wilson’s gaze had dropped back to the dead fire pit, not able to look at the unicorn as he spoke.  “It’s my fault your here.  The portal was built by me.  Maxwell tricked me…” Wilson closed his eyes, wincing at the words, correcting himself. “I let Maxwell trick me.  I was so eager to accomplish something unique, to prove to everyone I was right, I just accepted his offer without thinking.  Without considering the cost, or the consequences…”

Wilson opened his eyes again, still staring down at the ashes.  “I knew before I touched the switch that something was wrong, but I let Maxwell goad me into turning it on.  I had built my own snare, and I was trapped and dragged here to the Constant before I fully understood what I had done.  Every day since then I hoped I would be its only victim, but I was wrong.  I’m so sorry…”

“The urge to prove something can be strong motivation, even overwhelming at times.  To know something in a specific way, but have no-one else agree to it.  To begin to question one’s self when all the world disagrees, but to still hold tight and seek for a way to get others to accept it.  It can lead to a desperate place, when trying so hard to prove something, to associates, to friends, to family…”

Wilson didn’t answer after the unicorn had spoken.  He hadn’t truly been sure until that moment if she could actually understand him, or was merely mimicking the sound he made, but it seemed like she understood him all too well.  It put a knot in his stomach that prevented him from speaking further.

“But what does it matter.  Whether someone believes in something or not does not make it any more or less what it is.  Right or wrong, whatever it is, it still is.  I am not any less what I am, whether people choose to see me or not.  Your eyes seem to see me as I am, as a unicorn; there are others who won’t, or cannot.  They’ve called me horse, mule, among other things.  Some see me not at all.  I still am as I am, regardless of how they see me.  Why should I care?  I know what I am, even if others do not, and I am fine with what I am.  What else matters?”

Wilson was still silent, but his expression was different.  He had never considered things in that way.  Science was all about proving your theories, showing your evidence.  But even with all the evidence there was still people who didn’t believe some things that were proven scientific facts.  Some people were just stupid, or stubborn…

“Humans have some advantage when it comes to their beliefs.  There are so many of you - if the people around you do not believe in you, you can go find others who do.  My kind breed so rarely, live so long, it is difficult for there to be variation.  If we do not agree, we must simply tolerate each other, or live alone…”

I know that part well… Wilson considered silently.  The way she says it though… it sounds like she knows it too…  

“Are you alright?”

The question took Wilson off-guard at first, until he realized why she had asked - he had not spoken for several minutes after all, just staring down at the ashes of the fire pit.  It would be another moment before Wilson could speak aloud, rubbing the back of his head with an expression that was perhaps slightly embarrassed.  “My apologies for my silence, I do not mean to be rude.  Your reaction to this situation was not what I was prepared for.  You’re taking it so well.  I guess.. I was expecting you to be angry, or upset.”

“There would be no use in it.  We are here now, regardless of how we feel about it.  Whether mad or sad, the situation remains the same.”

A loud clatter made Wilson look up sharply, catching sight of a red furry form darting away from some parts that had fallen out of the fire suppressor that was still under construction.  The two of them so involved in their conversation, the fox had been left alone to its own devices, and it was starting to poke its nose into Wilson’s devices.

“Roxi!  Honestly, this is how things started last night, isn’t it?” The unicorn scolded as the fox jumped back onto the workbench and tried its best to look innocent.

“Oh no, it’s alright.  I really should have secured that,” Wilson would say, putting the pieces back in their places before turning his attention towards the fox on his workbench.  “Roxi, is it?  It is a pleasure to finally meet you, on less hectic circumstances.”

“And it is for those circumstances for which Roxi and I wish to apologize,” The unicorn would say, the fox making a sound and bowing her head towards Wilson.

“Oh no, the blame is largely mine as well.  It is hardly the behavior of a gentleman to go chasing a lady into the night, regardless of the circumstances.  I wish to apologize for my own contribution to that disaster, please forgive me.”

“A gentleman?” The unicorn asked, as though not understanding the word.

“Yes, Wilson Percival Higgsbury, gentleman scientist, at your service.  It is my pleasure to meet your acquaintance as well,” Wilson said with formality.

“It is a pleasure to meet you too, Wilson Percival Higgsbury,” The unicorn answered with equal formality, if not some interest as well.  “I was not aware humans had such extensive names.”

“Well, yes and no.  Some names can be much longer.  It helps us track our lineage, with so many of us, as you have said,” Wilson would explain, a bit sheepish.  “Most times we just use a part of our names to recognize each other.  You may call me Wilson.”

“A pleasure then, Wilson.  You may call me Windchaser,” The unicorn answered.

Another W… Wilson thought silently.  Every human that had been captured and brought here had a W to start their names, with the exception of Charlie who was captured at the same time as Maxwell.  Wilson had figured out quite a while ago that Maxwell was not his real name, but the magician managed to evade any attempts by the survivors to work out what his real name was.  It was odd, but perhaps it was a name he did not like, or there was something he didn’t want them to know… That aside, he still did not understand the connection with the names and their being captured, but once again the pattern seemed to hold true, assuming that Roxi the fox was only taken in an effort to bait Windchaser into trapping herself.  Just as Maxwell had given him the knowledge in order to construct his own trap.  But why a bring a unicorn here?  Why bring any of them, for that matter.  Windchaser was not the first non-human here - Wormwood from what they understood was ‘born’ here and was therefore a native, and Wortox seemed free to come and go as he pleased but largely chose to hang out with the humans for reasons they couldn’t get him to explain.  That would make Windchaser the first non-human lured to and trapped in the Constant, but for what purpose?  Maybe if he could work that out, he might be able to understand why the rest of them were trapped there.

“Wilson?”

The scientist snapped out of his train of thought, embarrassed once again.  “Sorry!  I do a lot of thinking, especially after being here for so long alone, I forget sometimes I have people to talk to now.  The others sort of just leave me to it when I get distracted by my thoughts.  It’s become my job to think up new things for us when I can.”

“A job for thinking?” The unicorn asked.

“Yes.  Well you see…”

“Wilson!!!”

That was a different voice, an urgent-sounding one.  It pulled Wilson’s attention to his front gate, followed shortly by a fist pounding on the wooden door.  “By the gods, man, are you in there?!”

Wilson headed to the front and unlatched the gate, recognizing Wigfrid’s voice.  She was standing outside in her full viking battle gear and accompanied by Wolfgang, both of them looking ready for a fight.  They seemed relieved to see him, Wigfrid even putting down her spear to clasp both of Wilson’s shoulders, as though to make sure he wasn’t some apparition. “Thank the stars you be still in one piece!  We thought thou had succumb to the hounds when thou didn’t appear at camp at dawn’s rising!”

“We worried little science man was trapped in lab,” Wolfgang affirmed.  

“No, I wasn’t trapped by them, I was outside the lab when the attack happened,” Wilson answered, leering back a bit at the attention. “I wasn’t expecting hounds so soon.  Everything’s moving so fast this time - winter in only a few days, and a hound attack soon after.  And so many! A new island usually starts with one or two, but I had four of them on me! Maybe more…” Wilson spoke, looking worried himself as he mulled over the details.

“Four of the beasts assaulted thee, and not a scratch on yon form.  The gods were truly with thee in this moment of crisis!” Wigfrid observed.

“Not a… oh no, I was torn to pieces almost,” Wilson spoke after a moment of confusion.  “But I had help,” Wilson looked over his shoulder to his workbench, but to his surprise his other two visitors were gone.  Wigfrid and Wolfgang looked that way as well, but they were at a loss for what he was looking at.

“Science man make new fighting machine?” Wolfgang asked, unsure if Wilson had meant the fire extinguisher sitting beside the workbench.

“No, not that…” Wilson answered, pulling out of Wigfrid’s grip to turn around and look around the lab himself, looking for any sign of the creatures he had been speaking with only a few moments ago.

“The time for tales of thy valor in battle can be told later, we must return to camp!” Wigfrid spoke, picking back up her spear.  “Our allies have suffered from the jaws of the demon hounds, we must return and aid them!”

That pulled Wilson’s attention back to his friends, suddenly reminded of what must have happened at the main camp.  If he’d had four hounds attack just him alone, he could only imagine how many had swarmed the camp.  His mind immediately shifted gears, grabbing up supplies to treat the injuries of the other survivors.  Slinging the backpack over his shoulders, Wilson found himself pausing once more, looking again over at the workbench and the wall behind it, looking for one last sign of his previous visitors.

“Come, Wilson!  Yon inventions can wait!” Wigfrid urged.  Wilson frowned, finally turning back around and hurrying off with the others to the main camp.

 

 

 

 

“How does that feel?”

“Much better.”

Warly flexed his hand, testing the newly wrapped bandages around his palm and wrist.  He winced a little bit at the movement.  “Nrf.  Really sore, but everything still moves like it should, I think.”

“I’m sorry I can’t do anything for the pain.  Maxwell never made anything to soothe pain here, and Charlie doesn’t seem to have bothered either,” Wilson lamented.

“Yeah, remind me to punch that guy with this hand once it’s finished healing.  And I owe him one with my other when he gets back to camp,” Warly answered.  Maxwell, suffering no major injuries and predicting the irritability of the other survivors, had left the camp not long after the hound attack.  He was not likely to be back until he though everyone had calmed down.  Warly flexed his hand again after Wilson made an adjustment to the bandage, the movement coming easier now.  “You’re sure you’re not a doctor, mon amie? You’re awful good at this.”

“I studied some, but I never got a degree.  I didn’t want to limit my self to just one branch of the sciences, I wanted to explore everything I could,” Wilson answered him.  “My family would have loved that, though.  ‘A respectable profession with dignity and prestige for the family’…” He said as though quoting someone.

“You know I’ve never heard you talk about them,” Warly inquired.

“Not much to say,” Wilson spoke, his tone flat as he picked up his medical supplies, looking briefly over at the other survivors to check if he had missed anyone else who needed further attention.  “They’re disappointed in me, and I hate them.”

“It can’t be that bad.  I don’t know what I’d do without my family.  There’s only a few of us, and we’re all so spread out, but we did what we could to help each other.  Most times it was just me and mamie, but we all kept in touch,” Warly frowned at his own mentioning of his grandmother.  “I hope she’d doing alright.”

Wilson frowned as well, awkward in the conversation, but feeling like he needed to say something.  “I’m sure she’s fine.  You said your family’s close, I’m sure someone has gone to check in on her.”

“I hope so,” Warly answered.  There was a moment of uncomfortable silence.  “Do you think your family will?  Go check on you and find… it…”

“No,” Wilson answered, his frown gone, and his tone sterile.  “They didn’t ask where I was going, and I didn’t tell them when I went.  I hope that wretched portal rusts in peace.”

“UGH!  I’m sick of hearing about that stupid portal,” Willow almost yelled, having heard the conversation.  “It’s no-wonder you keep having weird dreams about it, you don’t stop thinking about it!”

Wilson didn’t look at Willow, but his eyes narrowed.  “It wasn’t a dream.”

“You know I’m not one to discourage people, but maybe it’s time you let it go,” Woodie said in a kind tone.  “It’s a small island, we would’ve seen signs of something by now.  Tracks, eaten foliage…”

“I never studied mythology, but I know a bit, and I’ve been told unicorns don’t leave tracks.  There wouldn’t be anything to find,” Wilson answered.

“There’s nothing to find because they’re not real,” Willow answered.

Wilson didn’t answer any of them.  He bent his arm towards him, the one the hound had bitten first, the worst of his wounds from the attack.  The sleeve was torn, but there wasn’t a single mark on his flesh, not any kind of indication that anything had happened to it.  His cloths could have been torn by anything, many more common possibilities that would leave no injuries.  He touched his arm with his other hand, feeling nothing out of place on his flesh, but there was something hard on the edge of the torn sleeve.  The black fabric made it difficult to see, but as he scrapped it with his finger nails, tiny dark red flakes broke away.  He hadn’t directly touched any blood from the other survivors, and any he might have touched by mistake would not have dried this quickly, or covered so large an area of his sleeve.  He had not hurt himself before the hound attack, there was no other incident from where the blood could have come.  No matter how outrageous the hypothesis, once all other possibilities had been ruled out, what you were left with was the solution. The truth.

But they won’t see that.  They’ve already made up their minds.

 

Wilson’s strange, quiet behavior left the group a bit unsettled, just watching his strange gestures as he examined his arm for something unseen.  After several moments he finally moved again, gathering up the rest of the supplies into his backpack and starting to walk out of the camp.

“Mr. Wilson?” A timid voice asked, making him pause, that of Webber. “Where are you going?”

“I’m going to go find Chester,” Wilson answered, his tone without emotion.

“Do you want someone to come along?”

“No.”

Not a single word was spoken by anyone after that, the group only able to watch as Wilson walked alone out of the camp.

 

 

* * *

 

Maybe I am going crazy…

Wilson walked along at a steady pace, looking down occasionally at the map in his hand as he traveled.  So many unimaginable things have happened since I got here, how can any of it be real?  This could all be just some massive delusion.  In reality I’m in an asylum, climbing up the padded walls while doctors take notes and my family pays them off to keep silent…

 

Wilson sighed, letting the hand holding the map drop to his side as he instead looked at his other arm, the one injured and healed not that long ago.  He had cleaned the fabric and sewn up the sleeve before leaving, but the incident was still strong on his mind.  He’d felt real pain since he’d gotten here, so it couldn’t be a dream, but how real did pain seem in an insanity-induced delusion?  Wilson had never bothered to study psychology, and that left him with a lot of questions about himself and the current situation.  Did the insane even contemplate their situations this deeply, or did they go merrily on not realizing their deviations?

Wilson continued to stare at his arm for several moments before realizing something was beside him, startling him.  Windchaser had been leaning over his arm, as though trying to see what Wilson was looking at, but when the scientist had jumped she yanked her head back, continuing to walk with him but now giving him a wary gaze.  Riding on her back, Roxi the fox cocked her own head at Wilson, making a curious noise.

“Sorry! I’m ashamed to admit I have quite a startle reflex now,” Wilson apologized.  “I think we all do.  It’s… necessary around here…”

“It’s alright,” The unicorn answered.  “You looked like you were thinking.  I thought I would leave you to it, as you said the others do.”

“Thank you, though I’m not sure I want to do so much thinking for a while,” Wilson answered with a frown.  “Too much thinking on the wrong things has brought me a lot of trouble as of late.”  It was quiet for several moments after that, the two merely walking together in silence.  Despite his best efforts, the questions would not leave his mind, and he kept finding himself thinking about the morning.  “Windchaser, why did you disappear when the others showed up?”

“I’m not sure of them yet,” The unicorn answered.  “I’ve watched you for some time now, but I’ve decided to stay back from them.  Even you do not seem sure of them.”

At least she didn’t say ‘only you can see me’… Wilson thought silently, his mind still whirling about his own mental state.  The additional comments though made Wilson frown deeper, almost hurting to hear it.  “They’re good people.  A little strange at times, maybe, but no stranger than I.  Don’t let my behavior shape your opinions of them - I’ve been going through some things lately.  It’s my fault, not theirs…”

There was another long moment of silence, Windchaser offering no further comments, and Wilson feeling uncomfortable asking any of his other questions.  The scientist eventually brought his map back up, checking again that he was still on course.

“Is that where we are?”

“Oh, yes, this is the island.  Or most of it, maybe,” Wilson answered, surprised she knew what a map was, or was sentient enough to work out the meaning of the picture.  “Ms. Wickerbottom drew this up from what everyone has told her.  We haven’t seen all of the island yet, but most of the islands we’ve been on before now have roughly the same land surface area, so we can make an estimate on what’s left to explore.”

“Why did you decide to come to this island?” The unicorn asked.  The question made Wilson grimace.

“It… wasn’t really a voluntary choice.  It was… necessary…” Wilson stumbled to explain, confused and aghast at how to explain situation.

“Something happened on the last island and you had to leave it?”

“Yes…” Wilson answered, unwelcome memories of the Deerclops and the following tragedy resurfacing.  “We were pushed out by an unfriendly neighbor…” he finally summarized.

“I understand,” Windchaser spoke, her tone as though trying to be comforting. “Disputes over territory seem to be universal among species.  Even between species at times.  Space can not always be shared.”

“Yes.  I think I’m also having trouble sharing space with Maxwell right now,” Wilson mused, though he could muster no humor in the statement.

“Maxwell.  You’ve mentioned him before.  He was the one that brought you here?”

“Right.  I turned a blind eye to my suspicions in trade for the knowledge he offered, and that got me here.  Well, one of the other islands, not this one,” Wilson explained.  “HE is the one person I would caution you stay away from.  He does not have the power now that he did then, no-longer on the throne, but he’s still got his tricks and his cunning.”  Wilson felt his jaw tighten into a brief growl before he settled himself. “He saw you like I did at the portal, but he lies about it, denying it when I told the others…”  Wilson then frowned again.  “Not that it mattered.  The others didn’t believe me, even before Maxwell said anything.  I guess that’s why I’ve been so unsure of them, I thought after everything we’ve dealt with here they’d be better than that.  I guess believing that a unicorn is here is just beyond what they’re willing to accept…”  He glanced up at Windchaser.  “I hope it’s alright that I mentioned you.  I did not know you were keeping away from them at the time.”

“It’s alright,” Windchaser answered.  “You did not know, nor did they believe, so the situation remains the same.  If this Maxwell is like the others, he may be in denial of what he’s seen, and thus why he says it did not happen.”

“Of that I doubt,” Wilson answered, looking ahead again with an expression of suspicion.  “Maxwell’s a magician - he knows magic, and knows a bit about magical creatures,” Wilson explained, thinking about the giants such as the Dragonfly that had been created to torture them.  “He’s got something else in mind whenever he keeps secrets.  And whatever that is, it’s probably not good for us.”

Wilson sighed briefly, starting to feel tired.  The walk and the talk were taking a toll on him with the cold winter weather, and he found himself looking at the map again.  Most of the day was already gone, and he still had a long way to go.  He would have to decide where to set up an overnight camp, and how far he could go and still be safe…

“Did you have a destination in mind?” Windchaser asked, looking over the map as well this time.

“Not exactly,” Wilson admitted.  “I’m looking for a friend of mine who should be on the island by now, but no-one has found him,” He explained, indicating on the map. “I think he’s in this unexplored area, but it will be tricky getting there.” Wilson frowned as he thought about the upcoming task.  “I’ll have to find a way past the hounds…”

“Hounds?”

“The creatures that attacked earlier, the ones you saved me from,” Wilson explained.  “We know they’re not really hounds, not like the world we came from before, but it’s the closest thing to what we know to call them.”

As Wilson continued to stare at the map and plot his course, Windchaser lifted her head, ears forward and alert as though looking for the mentioned creatures.  Wilson eventually rolled the map to put it away in his pocket, then looked up with a start as he felt something take hold of him under his shoulders and pull him off his feet.  The scientist only had an instant to recognize the shimmer of some kind of energy before he found himself deposited on Windchaser’s back, just in front of Roxi, then was abruptly jolted as the unicorn took off at a fast pace.

Out of pure instinctual terror and a vague memory, Wilson latched on to his unexpected ride, grabbing Windchaser’s mane in his hands and gripping her back with his legs.  He had ridden one of the family horses once a very long time ago, barely more than a child, and it had been just as terrifying then.  Back then at least he had a saddle, and staff to steady the horse, but the size and speed of the beast had frightened him into never riding again, save for a brief attempt at taming a beefalo once trapped here.  More experiment than means of transportation, Wilson had quickly given up on it when he decided the giant furry cows were too slow to to make a reasonable difference in travel, still too fast to suit his fragile nerves of riding, and too ornery to be worth the effort to maintain them.  He had sworn he would never again attempt such an experiment, but now he found himself thrown unexpectedly back into it as an unwitting test subject.  All he could do was hold on for dear life.

 

 

It was one of his lowest moments.  Perhaps not as low as the first few days off the throne, but it was close - Maxwell, sitting on a tuft of grass, wrestling with a bandage.  How far he had fallen from reigning as the king of the entire Constant, to now all-but shy of sitting in the dirt, licking his wounds from a basic hound attack.  Well perhaps not so basic, there were a lot more of them than would normally be for a new island, but there were no elemental hounds at least.  Everything seemed rougher this time around; perhaps Charlie was growing bored of them.

Maxwell gave a frustrated snarl, letting the bandage fall to the ground.  Higgsbury was so much better at this kind of thing, perhaps he shouldn’t have taken off so quickly after the attack until the others had come back with the tantruming scientist.  However he knew how their simple little minds worked - they would have blamed him for the misfortune - it was better that he stayed away for a bit.  All he could do now was wait for WX to get back with the supplies he had told the robot to retrieve.

Maxwell’s gaze wandered about the area as he waited and soon spotted a form moving through the nearby clearing, but it wasn’t the one he was expecting.  All alone, looking about the area with a very studious demeanor, was the librarian, Ms. Wickerbottom.  Maxwell just watched from a distance, but eventually curiosity got the better of him, the magician rising and dusting himself off to approach the old woman.

“Good Afternoon, Maxwell.  Nice to see you still in one piece,” Wickerbottom spoke as the magician approached, easily spotting him by virtue of his height and purple suit even before he had risen to meet her.  “This is quite a fair walk from the camp you have decided to take.”

“Yes, I thought I might get some fresh air while things settled down,” Maxwell answered.  Though he was making small-talk, he was gauging the old woman, as he knew she was doing to him as well, and the two quickly fell into silence.

“Well I shall leave you to things.  Good day, Maxwell,” Wickerbottom would finally say, then heading back along the trees and eventually disappearing into them.

Maxwell’s gaze narrowed to an expression of great suspicion once the librarian had left, still staring in the direction she had gone.  Old witch!  Just what are you up to?  You can’t possibly be out here just to check up on me… Maxwell thought.  Glasses or no, your eyes see everything that happens around this bloody place, so how did you miss the unicorn?  That spastic, shape-shifting walking carpet isn’t so great a distraction for you to have missed the dancing lights and shadows at the portal so close by.  So what are you covering?  Or what else is so important that for once something had your complete and undivided attention?

 

He glared at the empty trees for several moments but no thoughts or answers came to him.  Whatever she was doing, all he could do was wait and see, and hope it didn’t interfere with any plans of his own.  Maxwell gave an annoyed snort, then turned away from the trees, not wanting to give thoughts of the old woman any more of his time or attention.  The next sight to greet him was a white flash with a red and black splotch, bounding swiftly over a hill in the distance.  

Wilson on back of the unicorn.

Maxwell’s jaw fell wide-open; it would have dropped clear to the floor were it not attached to his head.  There it was, the absent-minded scientific midget, riding a mythical beast through the Constant.  Was the fool trying to tame it?  Or was it another of his addled-minded experiments gone awry?  And how did he find the blasted thing in the first place?  Maxwell was out of breath by the time he had run to the top of the hill, but both man and beast were long out of sight, and Maxwell with no way to track them.

 

 

The cold air rushing past his face, the landscape flashing by at a blinding pace, the lack of solid ground under his feet - Wilson wanted to yell out in terror but found his jaw set closed too tight for himself to get a sound out.  The only thing tighter than his clenched teeth was his clenched fists, hanging onto Windchaser’s mane for his life.  It had been many years ago since that horrible ride as a child, but he swore the unicorn was so much faster than a normal horse.  Fear kept him glued to his ride’s back, but up ahead something even more terrible managed to grab his attention, the sight of the hound mounds coming into view.  

The mountainous piles of bones were merely surface decoration, covering around their subterranean dens and effectively hiding how many hound laid in wait down bellow.  The arrangement was so close together that it was a veritable wall - even Wilson alone would have had trouble squeezing between, much less without being noticed by the residents.  There was but a handful of the hounds on the surface, napping, gnawing on bones, and squabbling with each other, but a single alert hound surveying the area immediately spotted the brilliant white form approaching.  It looked almost surprised at what it was seeing, but within an instant it was barking out an alert, drawing the attention of all the surface hounds which began to regroup for the incoming meal.

Wilson let out an involuntary gasp.  There was at least a dozen hounds, and Windchaser was headed straight for them, not trying at all to go around.  The hounds were all too delighted to run out to greet their dinner as it came within yards of their mound.  Within seconds of the monsters reaching them Wilson felt a change in the beast bellow him, feeling as she gathered herself then made a powerful leap, soaring above the oncoming hounds and their mounds, clearing the bone nests with space to spare.  Wilson was jolted by the landing but managed to stay on, and Windchaser spared no moment, taking off running the instant her feet reached the ground again, leaving the confused and angry hounds trapped behind the wall of bone.

Wilson whipped his head back around, both looking for Roxi who was still on back of the unicorn much to his confusion, and looking back towards the mounds.  More hounds were emerging from the mounds to give pursuit, but the stubby legs of the monster dogs had no hope of keeping up with the much longer stride of the unicorn, rapidly falling behind.  Wilson found himself laughing, just a little bit.  An exhausted, nervous laugh of someone expecting to die any moment, but the absurdity of the whole situation just made him do it.  He had to be losing his mind.

The laugh did not last as Wilson turned his gaze back forward.  The rocky terrain was falling away to another field, this one filled with beehives.  Both kinds of them.  The laugh had loosened his jaw and he was able to find his voice again, though at a nervous stammer.  “Th-the hives, the red ones!  The bees will attack if we get close!” He warned to his ride, unsure if she heard in the rushing wind.  That fear was put to rest as Windchaser began to weave through the field as they reached it, avoiding the red hives resembling hornets nests with as much room as she could give.  There were a few close together that there was no way to go around at a wide enough distance, but by the time the killer bees had emerged to attack, Windchaser had already sped past them, and they had less hope than the hounds of catching up.  The dangers of the bee field soon gave way to sand and a familiar small patch of grass and birch trees in the distance.

“Those trees, stop there, please!” Wilson urged, afraid they would fly right past it at the speed they were moving.  Windchaser obliged, slowing her pace gradually until at a walk, just as they came to the edge of the oasis.  She came to a stop a few yard from the empty crater that would become the oasis’s pond after the spring rains, gazing about as though looking for more danger.  Wilson took the opportunity to slide himself off the unicorn’s back, grateful to put his feet back on solid ground.  No sooner did his feet touch ground that he felt them go out from under him, his limbs still too shaken from the experience to hold him.

“Wilson!” Windchaser exclaimed, startled at seeing the human collapse to the ground.

“I-I’m alright, I’m fine,” Wilson answered, his voice still shaken as well as he put up a hand to settle her fears, though he remained sitting on the ground.  “I wasn’t expecting such a trip.  I’ve been fearful of riding since I was a child.”

“I’m so sorry, I should have asked first,” Windchaser lamented.  “My glory has always accused me of being impulsive.  I always thought they were just too timid.  I suppose I can see their side of it now.”

“It’s alright, I’m alright,” Wilson answered, though he was now frowning as he though back on the experience he just had.  “Having seen the mounds I don’t think there would have been any other choice, I didn’t see a way around them…”  His jaw tightened even before he finished realizing the next thought.  “I’ll have to ride again when we go back…”  He then looked up again, over at the empty lake at the center of the oasis.  There was going to be an even bigger problem in two seasons, the Ant Lion.  The Oasis meant this was the desert where it lurked, and come summer if they couldn’t get to it to make offerings, it would make this hell even worse.

Wilson sighed, pulling out his map and starting to make some quick sketches.  It was by no means accurate, having been going at too fast a pace and too distracted by it to make any good observations of the area, but he needed to at least note the areas they had gone through.  Maybe there was a way around the mounds that he had been too distracted to take note of…

After a few moment sketching with the two animals looking over his shoulder, Wilson found himself shaking, not from the experience but from the cold.  They were late into dusk now and the sun would be setting soon, bringing with it the dangerous cold and the threat of claws striking from the dark.  Wilson staggered to his feet, not in a panic but a definite urgency, pulling out flint and tinder to get a fire started.  Once he got to work, the others recognized what he was doing, bringing him twigs and other plant debris from the area to build it into a proper fire.  He sat as close as he safely could to the fire, trying to soak in the heat.  The winter hat and his beard only provided minimum protection from the cold, and he regretted not having a jacket.  He was jostled briefly, now feeling something warm against his back, looking over his shoulder to find Windchaser settling down behind him.  Roxi came in beside him as well, cuddling up under his arm and wrapping her tail around her feet.

“Thank you,” Wilson told them, smiling briefly, but then frowning again as he looked towards the fire.  He didn’t have much fuel, not enough to keep it going through the night.  If he woke up, in the cold and the dark…

“Don’t worry about the fire.  We’ll be able to keep you warm,” Windchaser spoke, as though trying to read his mood.

“It’s not that.  Not… entirely…” Wilson answered, beginning to feel the guilt again, the regret of having built the portal that had trapped his new friend here.  “There is something in the darkness… a being that lurks there, and strikes as those who don’t have a light, or can’t otherwise see in the dark.  You must have a light, or remain asleep to avoid harm.”

“There is a grue here?” Windchaser asked.

Wilson looked confused at the word.  “Grue?”

“A creature, like you’ve described.  It hunts in the dark, but fears the light, can even be harmed by it.  But the restraint or inability to strike one that sleeps, that is not something that I have heard of,” Windchaser answered, looking off into the darkness as though surveying for danger again, but the darkness was still and quiet.

Wilson nodded silently to her.  They had always thought of it as the darkness itself attacking them, until they found out about Charlie, but the word seemed to fit now that he heard it.  Still, he did not want to refer to Charlie so crudely as a simple term, less she be upset with it.  “The being in the dark… if I awake, and the fire is out, it will not hesitate to attack…”

As Wilson stared at the fire, he felt a gentle touch, Windchaser’s nose nuzzling the side of his head.  The gesture was comforting.

“Rest.  If the fire goes out, I’ll keep back the night.”

 

 

 

___________________________________________________________________

 

Thanks to everyone who's been reading so far.  Chapter 3 is the last of the completed chapters that I have for now, but I have more in the works, as well as some art.  Any comments and questions are welcome.  Let me know what you guys think, what you want to see more of, and if you spot any errors so I can fix them.  ;)

Hope to have more for you guys soon.

Edited by Raiden_Sola

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Raiden_Sola    10

I feel like I'm very old-school when it comes to art.  I've had much more success getting what I think about onto paper than onto a tablet, but maybe I just haven't found the right digital devices.  While I do like to draw with pencil and ink first, I typically clean-up and paint drawings on computer.  However I had the unfortunate discovery recently that my scanner is on the fritz, and with things are as they are right now, it's unlikely I'll be able to get it fixed or replaced anytime soon. 

I've been sitting on these drawings for about 3 weeks now, and I finally decided enough was enough.  Cleaned them up, added some greys, and found the best quality but still questionable phone camera in my house and comited them to digital.  I hope you'll enjoy, and please be merciful XD

 

To start it off, we have my first ever attempt at drawing Wilson.  Wasn't trying in particular to stick to the DST style or any other, I just simply wanted to make him "look right" to me.

wilson1greyscale.thumb.jpg.25edcfdffed2c5ed391966b1d07fa9fe.jpg

I'm not sure what that expression is.  Maybe cautious curiosity.

And for anyone curious who has been reading the fic thusfar, a simple sketch of Roxi.

roxi1greyscale.jpg.9923662869b300c4ea83ff7361a05d9f.jpg

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Raiden_Sola    10

 

* Chapter 4 *

Spoiler


 

“What are you two doing?”

Winona, still rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, had come across Willow and Wigfrid a ways out from the camp.  Winona herself had been on her way to gather more wood when she had come across the strange antics of the other two women.

“What does it look like?  We’re looking for unicorns, or something,” Willow answered, not sounding so sure herself.

“I thought you said they weren’t real.  What made you change your mind?” Winona asked, only half-interested.

“I haven’t,” Willow shot back, a bit annoyed. “But Wilson had to have seen something to set him off.  Maybe a stray beefalo, or a white deer.  They’re supposed to look like deer with one horn, right?  Maybe he saw one with a broken antler,” Willow offered, thinking about the no-eyed deer they had encountered here in the Constant.

“Tis hard to say.  May depictions exist of the mythical beast.  I have not had the fortunes to gaze my eyes upon such a beast to know its true form,” Wigfrid answered.

Winona gave a brief nod to Willow.  “I guess I agree with ya on that.  Egghead’s cracked, but he’s not scrambled yet.”

Willow gave Winona an annoyed look, then rolled her eyes and got back to searching.  “I don’t even know what we should be looking for.  Everything’s normal.  At least for this place.”

“Perhaps the shadow queen plays tricks on Wilson, conjuring phantoms for his eyes alone?” Wigfrid suggested.

“I guess it’s possible,” Willow answered.  “He seemed really sure the deerclops attack wasn’t an accident.  Maybe he got Charlie mad.”

Winona was thoughtful, but unsure.  “Dunno.  I’ve known my sis to play a trick or two if you deserved it, but she was never mean-spirited about it.  But then I dunno what’s gotten into her since she’s gotten here.  This whole place is pretty mean-spirited all the time.  I know Maxy’s mostly responsible, but she could’ve changed things if she’d wanted.”

“It could also be Maxwell playing a trick too,” Willow decided.  “Wilson said Maxwell was there when he saw it, maybe this is his latest prank?  Drive Wilson crazy and make us mad at him in the process.”

“This latest joke would not seem fitting with the shadow mage’s previous tricks,” Wigfrid would remind.  “He prefers a public performance, embarrassing Wilson with full audience to see the deed.  Such a private airing of his work is not favored by him.”

“I’m not much of a show-biz person, but I know a lot of work goes into the background before a performance.  All this could be setup, then Maxy unveils the final trick once he’s done torturing Wilson,” Winona suggested.

“He has been doing a lot of sneaking around, more than normal,” Willow considered.  Then she developed a mischievous look.  “I think it’s time we did some sneaking around, don’t you think?”

“A turn of tables on the shadow mage?” Wigfrid asked.  “I’m in.”

Winona shrugged, indifferent.  “At least if we keep him busy for a bit he can leave Egghead alone so he can calm down.  Maybe we can find out where some of our supplies have been going to.”

“Alright, here’s what we’re gonna do…”

 

 

 

 

Wilson stretched, a good long stretch like he hadn’t done in a long time.  It was hard to get a good night’s sleep without a bed, let alone in the Constant.  No matter what your level of sanity, there was always that feeling of being watched, wisps of things at the edge of your vision in the full dead of night, the feel of things unseen touching you as your consciousness slipped away… but not this time.  As Wilson woke he became aware of perhaps his first night of sleep here unmolested by the shadows.  Roxi and Windchaser were still beside him, still asleep for the moment.  He looked over at the unicorn with a great degree of curiosity, even more puzzled than before.  As she had said, she kept back the night, and all the things Wilson had come to associate with it.  Were the shadows afraid of her?  It would explain the hostile reaction at the portal, but then why create a situation where they would bring her here?  It made no more sense than the rest of this world, he supposed.

Wilson was drawn out of his pondering by the feel of Windchaser moving behind his back.  He quickly got up, making space for the large creature as she began to rouse.  Like Wilson, as she began to wake she would stretch, though the gestures reminded him more of a cat than a horse or a deer.  He had recognized the obvious traits of the two hoofed animals in this beast (head and legs closer to a deer, neck and body more of a horse), but the stretching showed a greater range of motion than either animal, and it was absolutely fascinating to Wilson’s scientific mind.  He wished now he had taken more animal biology courses.  Thankfully he wasn’t so totally distracted that he realized he was staring, and quickly changed business to checking his backpack so as to not be rude.

Others, however, were not so inclined.  No sooner than Wilson had opened the backpack, he found Roxi shoving her head inside, and coming back out with a mouth full of berries.  “Oh so you’re the one,” Wilson spoke, trying to sound annoyed but still somewhat amused.  “I might have guessed you were the one responsible for the disappearing berries.  It’s poor manners to take without asking first,” He scolded.  The fox finished eating, then licked the berry juice off her muzzle, showing no signs of remorse.  He tried to look angry, but it came out as a wry smirk.  “You remind me a lot of a fox that used to raid my trashcans.”

“She probably is.”

Wilson was a bit taken off guard, looking over at Windchaser coming up to the two of them.  “Pardon?”

“She probably was the one looting your trashcans,” Windchaser repeated.  “I’ve told her to leave things alone, but when I’m not around her curiosity usually overrides her good sense.”

“You’ve been around my house?  I mean… not just when you approached the portal?” Wilson asked, his mind not wanting to connect the details.

“Yes,” Windchaser answered, her tone almost a bit matter-of-factual.  “The woods your house is in are mine.”

The deed I bought would argue otherwise… Wilson thought silently, then decided to let it drop.  That piece of paper was back at the house, and the both of them were here where it didn’t matter in the slightest anymore.

“The glory was not happy when they found out you had moved in.  I somewhat think the only reason they let me maintain those woods on my own was that the previous humans that had come had also gone not long after.  I suppose they thought the house would fall apart quick enough and then all traces of humans would be gone.  But then after I had been settled you showed up, and it was too late for them to protest.  I would not let them change back their minds.”

“Glory, you used that word before,” Wilson spoke, confused by the way she was using the word.

“What a group of my kind is called in your tongue,” Windchaser explained.

“So it’s your family?”

“And others.  There can be more than one family living together.  It is more a community.”

Wilson nodded, starting to understand, but also a bit annoyed.  Didn’t like me, did they?  “So the rest of them don’t like humans?  Why not?”

“I’m not sure, actually,” Windchaser answered, looking towards the sky as though it might offer an answer.  “They would never explain when I asked, and could never give me a full reason.  I think… humans reminded them of something else…  Something that hurt them once…”

Wilson frowned, completely confused now.  Something like human, but not human?  He made a brief noise, shaking his head slightly.  No point trying to hash it out now - as he told himself not long ago, they were both here now, not back on earth.  Nothing there mattered anymore.  He looked down at his bag and grimaced at Roxi sitting beside it with another mouth-full of berries.  He closed the pack and slung it over his shoulders again, starting to walk away from the oasis with the others following close behind.

“So your friend is out here?” Windchaser would ask after a few moments.

“I hope so, at least.  There’s no-where else he could be, if he’s here,” Wilson answered.  “He’s always shown up every other time before, but normally he’s easier to find.  Everything is so much harder this time…”

“You’ve had to move more than once?”

“Yes.  Every time all of us…”

Wilson’s voice trailed off as his pace slowed, coming to a stop, unable to bring the words to his mouth.  Every time we all die, it all starts all over again.  Even in death we can’t find peace.  Even if we kill ourselves the insanity doesn’t end…

“Wilson?”

I can’t keep pushing this off, I have to explain about this place.  She deserves to know where she is now, how things work here.  What hell I trapped her in…  Wilson sighed, gathering himself as he turned around to face her, not sure where to start explaining.  As he looked at the unicorn a bit behind him, though, he found himself distracted.  He had said it to the other survivors before, but he hadn’t put it to mind before now, until he had seen it himself.  In the desert sand there was his and the fox’s footprints, but there wasn’t a single track from Windchaser.  It left him completely dumbfounded.

“How… That’s impossible, how are you not leaving tracks?  This is fine-grit sand, even the wind makes marks in it.”

Windchaser had to look behind herself briefly before answering Wilson.  “Oh.  That’s just how we are.  Being light-footed is a natural part of our magic.”

“But… how?  You should weigh more than I do, it’s a physical impossibility.  How does that even work?”

“I don’t know.  It just is,” She answered, shifting her feet, still without a mark on the ground.  “I don’t think about it, it just happens.”

Wilson’s frown deepened, clenching his teeth a bit a though the conversation was giving him a headache.  “You do it, but you don’t have any idea how you do it?”

Windchaser snorted.  “You have knowledge pushed in your head that shows you how to build strange things, how does that work?”

Wilson was taken aback.  It wasn’t just her tone, it was the nerve it struck, the same shortcoming that he constantly reminded himself of - that he had no control over the knowledge that had be given to him.  No control of any of the impossible things that kept happening to him.  No way to even prove to himself that any of this was real, not some delusion to punish himself.  That was the one thing he couldn’t come to terms with, that he never allowed himself to come to terms with, that there was no way any of this could possibly happen, and keep happening, without there being some reason for it.  It was torture, and insanity, and no sane being could this to others without reason to.  It took the delusion of a mythical beast to show it to him the truth, but it was not the truth he kept hoping for…  He didn’t try to stop himself as he felt the breakdown coming, dropping to his knees and letting the tears flow.  He didn’t care anymore.

He didn’t know how long he stayed like that, letting his bottled anguish flood out.  As his tears began to dry he felt a gentle touch on his forehead, Windchaser touching her head to his, trying to sooth him.  “I’m sorry.”

“No.  You did nothing wrong.  I don’t know if any of us did.  This place is insane, and horrible, and even in death we don’t get to leave, we just get sent to another island.  We didn’t move here, we were thrown here…” Wilson answered, rubbing the last of the tears from his eyes.  “So long as it was just me I could deal with things, but now that I’m here with the others, now that you’re here because of that damned portal…” Wilson was silent for a few minutes, his tone calming when he next spoke.  “So long as I could tell myself that none of this could possibly be real, I could keep pretending it wasn’t, that this was some kind of delusion.  That this was all some kind of dream, and no-one was actually depending on me…” He gave a brief laugh, a very sad sound.  “Such stupid irony.  It took a fantasy animal in my delusion to finally show me this is all real.  I would never imagine something such as you here, it’s too far off the rails for me.  My mind would never conjure anything like you.  I really am stuck here in hell with amazing knowledge that I have absolutely no hope of understanding or controlling.”

He felt Windchaser nudge him again, this time tilting his head up, opening his eyes.

“Don’t despair over the knowledge.  Just because you don’t understand or control it, doesn’t mean that you can’t,” She told him.  She leaned forward a bit, putting her weight into one of her front hooves, then pulling away and stepping back.  “Being able to understand or command something isn’t always needed to be able to work with something.  An ally is more loyal than a servant.  Perhaps instead you should seek to work with it, instead of control it…”

As the unicorn had stepped back, what was left was so simple, but it mystified Wilson.  A perfect, simple hoof print, the only one he had seen her make.  She had to make a conscious effort, but she could leave tracks.  A semi-involuntary function, like breathing, Wilson decided.  He had to touch it to make sure it was real, the first physical evidence he had seen of her since they’d met.  It eased so much of his mind to see it… but it also confused him.  He had assumed she had cloven hooves like a deer, but now that he looked at them up close along with the print, he realized it was more like a horse shoe-shaped print, single and solid, with an odd notch in it that made it look cloven.  The notch had an accompanying protrusion into the hoof, making an overall shape that reminded him of a W.  Or an M…  The thought made Wilson’s mind go immediately to Maxwell, and while not a pleasant thought he realized from the opposite angle the shape was very similar to the emblem on the front of the magician’s precious Codex Umbra.  Perhaps it wasn’t a letter at all…

Wilson looked back up again, his anguish gone, replaced by the continuing mystery that was this place they were now in.  “Windchaser, have you ever met Maxwell before?”

“I’m not sure that I have met him for a first time,” She answered with some confusion.  “Which one was he?”

“Tall and thin, like a beanpole as we would say.  He wears a purple suit, and looks down upon all the rest of us with an air of superiority.”

“No, I have not yet glimpsed him,” She answered.  “I saw only you at the portal when the battle had ended, and have not seen him among the others when I have glimpsed them.”

“He has been keeping away from the others, I guess you haven’t been around at the same time he has,” Wilson answered, a bit disappointed, but his mind still whirling at the implications.  “He carries a magic book with him, the Codex Umbra.  The shape on the front of it looks a lot like your hoof print.”

Windchaser cocked her head as she looked down at her own mark, puzzling over the shape herself.  “Well my kind are creatures of magic.  Humans have mimicked other aspects of us in their efforts to understand such forces.  Most spell-casters start learning their craft using implements to mimic our horns.  Wands I think they are called.”

“I guess...” Wilson answered.  “I don’t think Maxwell made the book though.  He doesn’t talk much about such things, but I think he found it, from what I understand.”  Wilson gave a brief sigh, pushing himself back to his feet as Windchaser made space for him.  “Not much point in thinking about it now, I guess.  Even if asked he probably won’t answer.  I swear he likes to spite us with withholding knowledge,” Wilson explained.

“Well knowledge about himself anyways.  It sounds as though he shared quite a bit with you at one time,” Windchaser answered.  “Perhaps somewhere within it is the answers you seek.”

“Perhaps.  But later.  It’s not the matter at hand,” Wilson said, looking back up at Windchaser.  “My friend is out here someplace, and no-one should ever be left alone in this world all on their own.  I don’t deserve to ask-”

“It would be my pleasure to assist you,” Windchaser would speak, cutting off Wilson before he could finish.  “I hardly could have come this far with you if it wasn’t.  And with the current situation my fault, I will need to help you get back to your camp once its all done.”

Wilson grimaced.  “Yes, well, I hope we can find a different way back past the hound mounds.  I would rather not repeat how we got out here.  No offense to you, I am just not much of a rider at all.”

Windchaser made a noise that seemed something like a chuckle.  “Yes, we’ll try a slow route next time.”  The two nodded to each other, then the group was on the move once more, heading deeper into the desert sands.

 

 

 

 

Another cold, bitter morning with the peasants…  Maxwell would rather have not been there, but he had been hoping on Higgsbury returning to the camp; a hope dashed as he’d woken to the usual rabble, minus the scientist.  Things had settled down at least, but he still received the occasional glare from the other survivors.  Maxwell ignored their gazes in his typical fashion, instead studying the Codex Umbra as he waited for Wilson’s inevitable return.  He had only translated bits and pieces of the cryptic pages before he had been taken to this world and put upon the throne, and much of the text still evaded him.  It was as if the pages of the tome only revealed to him what it wanted to in its chosen time, but there was always hints of the deeper mysteries just out of his reach.  For a moment he wondered if this was the same thing Higgsbury went through with the Knowledge, meditating with his machines over the tangle of information just as Maxwell studied the cryptic script within the pages of the codex.  Though unlike Higgsbury and his ‘dabbling’, Maxwell knew his success would come - it was just a matter of time, and keeping the peasants from distracting him.

“See? I told ya, it looks exactly like it…”

 

Maxwell kept himself from looking up from the codex, but his expression did shift slightly at the sound of whispers nearby.  Wickerbottom might see more than she had business doing, but it was Maxwell who got to hear it.  His body had aged, but his hearing was still fantastic, in his unarguable opinion.  He continued to operate as before, turning the page of his book while he focused in on the voice he’d caught.  It sounded like Willow, from the forest undergrowth a distance away.

“I did not see the other tome, thou asks me to make a judgement upon only thy tale of thine vision in the dark.  Perhaps you dreamed, as many have lately.”

 

Another voice, that of the over-dramatic actress, Wigfrid.  He didn’t care about the opinions of either of them, but they were clearly talking about the Codex, and that put him on alert.

“No it wasn’t a dream.  I got cold and woke up to get my blanket, and when I was reaching for it I saw Ms. Wickerbottom with the same book.  A little smaller, yeah, but the same cover, same stupid emblem.  There’s nothing else around here that looks like that.  She saw I woke up and hid it away quickly.”

 

The two women went quiet for a moment.  Maxwell pulled another small book out of his inside coat pockets, one that he kept notes in, pretending to make comparisons with the text.  If they thought he was listening in for not turning the page in a while, that would make them think instead that he was just studying something particularly long.  The guess was correct, the women starting to talk again a moment later.

“Perhaps the scroll-keeper makes a second in case the original codex is lost?”

 

“I don’t care what reason it’s for, I don’t like it!  We’re all here because of that stupid book, the last thing we need is a second one.  I’ll burn both of them if I can get my hands on them.”

 

“Tis unlikely the scroll-keeper will let such a tome part her company.  We must tread carefully in this matter.”

 

“Hey, Beanpole!”

Maxwell scowled, diverting his attention from the hushed conversation in order to look at Winona approaching him.  “You need something?” the magician asked with an unconcerned tone.

“Yeah, I need your butt off that log doing some work.  We don’t have time for people to be sitting around cooling their heels in the cold.”

“I AM working.  I know most of you illiterate rubes have no respect for the written arts, but try to understand that it takes more skill and focus than taping twigs and tying knots to unravel the mysteries of an ancient language.”

“Blah, blah, blah.  What I know is the fire’s getting low and your royal rear is parked on our firewood.  You can keep doodling in your journal when you’ve brought a new load in for us.”

Maxwell gave a brief laugh, the sound of a man that had just heard the most ridiculous demand ever.  “My dear, I thought you wouldn’t have time for making jokes.”

“Laugh this up - remember I stopped the cook from knocking your teeth out last night.  I guarantee he’s not gonna do any cooking for you if he doesn’t at least have a good fire to cook on.”

Maxwell made an annoyed noise, standing up so that he could glare down at Winona as he put his journal back into his coat pocket.  He flipped the pages of the Codex Umbra in a menacing manner, and a quick gesture later he summoned two of his shadow duplicates from the dark tome.  Winona, as normal, was not impressed, waiting with her hands on her hips for Maxwell to do something.  Maxwell gave her a snort, now simply looking bored with her presence.  “Come boys, the peasants want to be shown the correct way to get a job done,” Maxwell said in his royal tone, gesturing for his minions to head for the forest.  He spared Winona one more rude look.  “Try not to level the camp with one of your toys while we do your job for you.”  He would have liked to have stayed put, try to hear more about the librarian’s secret antics, but Winona’s intrusion would have undoubtedly ended any further conversation that would have happened.  He would just have to return later, and keep a closer eye on the old woman…

Winona gave the magician an equally rude look, making a point of picking up the log he had been using as a seat and tossing it into the fire, then keeping her eyes on him as though to make sure he was in fact on his way to get to work.  Only once Maxwell was out of sight did her angry mood disappear, replaced with a smirk.  She discretely gave a thumbs up to the bushes where Willow and Wigfrid were still hiding, then turned and headed back into the camp to return to her normal work.  She had to admit, this might actually turn out to be fun.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

The one advantage of exploring the desert in winter was not having to worry about the oppressive heat.  The biggest disadvantage though was the other side of that double-edge sword - the lack of resources to combat the cold.  The oasis had at least provided Wilson with some wood before his little group set back out, but he worried if it would last.  Under normal circumstances he could have expected to find Chester nearby to a road, the cheerful little monster eager to be found, but out here? Wilson had no idea where to start looking.  As such he simple picked a direction and began walking, Roxi and Windchaser staying close with him in this unfamiliar world.

It was also entirely possible he was simply wasting their time…  It was a thought he didn’t want to consider, but Charlie may have decided not to allow Chester to come to this island.  If the Deerclops had been punishment, the exclusion of Chester certainly could have been as well - Wilson was closer to the little beast than anyone else, it would hurt him the most to not have him around.

Windchaser nudged Wilson’s chin, causing his head to lift up.  His thoughts had dimmed his mood, causing him to hang his head without thinking about it, at least until the unicorn had touched him.  She didn’t say anything, but her cheerful look helped to brighten Wilson a bit, continuing to walk without reverting to depression.  All this was so much easier when he still thought it was a hallucination…

As Wilson looked ahead, he realized something out of place that he hadn’t spotted with his eyes and mood to the ground.  Most of the topography of the islands was always relatively flat - a few hills here and there, the occasional cliff out to the water’s edge - but what was ahead was much, much taller.  It was only maybe two or three stories tall, but compared to the rest of the island it was a veritable mountain.  A great mound of basalt, pieces of varying size and shape all piled on top of each other, like they had just been thrown into a massive pile.  Of all the islands Wilson had been on before now, he had never seen anything like this.  It was strange enough to have been one of Maxwell’s constructs, like the many traps the magician had tried to bait the survivors into approaching for his amusement, or the various marble sculpture gardens scattered about in his own personal honor.  But the ‘mountain’ did not fit either of these, there being no decorations to honor the former or current ruler, nor any obvious prize to bait a survivor into a dangerous stunt.  

Wilson approached the mountainous pile of basalt with caution, stopping a few meters away and waiting tensely for it to come to life or rain a rock slide down on him, but nothing would happen.  He relaxed somewhat as he puzzled over it, confused but wary.  Perhaps it simply was just topography, a landmark created for Maxwell to remember this specific island by.  But the ever-present question of this world remained in his head - why?  Wilson gave a brief sigh, turning back around and walking to Windchaser and Roxi who had stopped a short distance away, before pulling out his map and starting to sketch the mysterious landmark.  If nothing else, it’d help him keep track during their exploration.

The scientist worked blandly on the map, Windchaser and Roxi peeking around the edges with interest as he worked.  Wilson glanced up once more to check the landscape and caught sight of an object lying on the ground off to the side of the mountain of basalt that caused his mood to jump to elated.  “Ah!  The Eye Bone!”

Wilson let the map drop to the ground, rushing over to the strange object as his companions looked on with confusion as Wilson snatched it up and then started looking around almost frantically.  After everything that had happened, he worried this was just some other trick to get his hopes up just to dash them again, but after a moment he heard a familiar bounding and panting.

“Chester!” Wilson exclaimed, overjoyed as he turned around to have the little orange monster jump into his arms.  For several moments he just hugged the happy ball of fur as it licked his face, equally happy to have been found by Wilson.  “Oh I’m so glad to have found you.  This is the worst spot yet for you to be waiting,” He told Chester who barked happily in response.  Wilson turned back around, eager to share with his companions the first friendly face he had ever met in this world.  “Windchaser, Roxi, this is my buddy Chester.  He’s who we’ve been looking for.  I’m so glad we found him safe.”

Windchaser seemed happy, glad that Wilson was in a much better mood.  “Hello Chester, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Wilson set Chester down on the ground, but now facing the unfamiliar forms, Chester had grown very quiet.  Without much of a discernible face on the small furry monster, it was difficult to tell what his mood was.  Chester was always so friendly with everyone else, even with Wortox, but the imp was still much more humanoid with walking on hind legs.  Faced with a sight such as Windchaser, Chester seemed… nervous.

The tension lasted only a moment, broken by Roxi as the red fox sprang forward, crouching down like a playful dog and barking at Chester, wagging her tail.  Whatever uncertainty the furry orange monster had evaporated, mimicking Roxi as the two were soon bounding and playing with each other.  Wilson just watched happily, a big smile on his face.  For the first time in a long time, it finally felt like things were truly turning around for the good.

 

 

* * *

 

 

 

Another night by the campfire, seeking to hold back the cold and the dark.  It was a sobering reminder of the state of the world they were in now, but even that couldn’t bury his mood this time.  Wilson pet Chester beside him, the small furry monster acting as an arm rest on his one side, with Roxi on his other side and Windchaser situated behind him again.  Tonight the darkness did not worry him, but his thoughts were on another matter of concern, the remaining return trip.

They were about halfway back to the oasis by Wilson’s judgement, and about half a day’s walk away from the hound mounds.  He needed to figure out a solution to the problem presented by the wall of monster dens, and how they would get around them.  Riding with Windchaser was one thing, but Wilson wasn’t sure he could hold onto Chester and still hang on himself if it came down to another flying leap over the hounds.  He wasn’t even sure still how Roxi had held on, unless plenty of previous practice had allowed the fox to dig in with her nails and hang onto the unicorn.  Chester might have behaved like a dog, but he barely had any toes, let alone toe nails to get traction with.  He despised the idea, but it might come down to leaving Chester to try to catch up after they jumped the mounds and led the hounds off.  Chester would be small enough to fit between the mounds, but it was just as likely he would be swarmed by the hounds.  So long as Wilson kept the eye bone safe he could be sure Chester would be revived and find his way back just as the survivors did, but Wilson did not want to abandon his small friend to the mercy of the hounds.

Wilson stroked Chester briefly, the little monster snuggling in closer to him then settling down again.  It was a problem that Wilson needed to figure out quickly, not just for Chester but for the rest of the group for the coming summer.  If they couldn’t easily get past the hounds, things would be a lot worse once the Antlion woke up.  Maybe there was a connecting wormhole, or a path through the yet unexplored caves of this island.  They were all possibilities worth exploring.  

Wilson’s thoughts were interrupted by a long, involuntary yawn, reminded of his weary body.  He settled himself back, allowing sleep to claim him.  Everything else would just have to wait for morning.

 

 

 

 

It was the dead of night by the time Wickerbottom had returned to camp, but it could not have been helped.  She didn’t expect to find him, but after Wilson’s behavior the previous day and failure to return to either camp, she had made an attempt to locate him.  The effort was ultimately wasted, but she could assume he would reappear sooner or later.  Even in the worse-case scenario it would only be the inconvenience of reviving and recuperating him if the world had gotten the better of him.

As she took stock of the camp upon her return she found most everything in order, the majority of the survivors asleep or keeping busy near the warmth of the fire, but one form drew her immediate attention, as well as a look of irritation.  Across from the fire, accompanied by his two shadows, sat Maxwell in her spot, reading one of her books.  The other survivors had enough respect (or worry) of her to not touch such precious objects without her express permission, but Maxwell was feeling bold today it seemed.  Even as she approached him, he hardly seemed to care, continuing to examine the book as though studying its construction.

“I would hope a gentleman would know better than to involve himself with the possessions of a lady without their permitting it first,” Wickerbottom would say, firmly removing the book from Maxwell’s hands.  Her tone remained diplomatic, but her annoyance was evident.

“Perhaps if you had returned to camp in a timely manner,” Maxwell answered, looking annoyed but primarily bored.  “I’ve spent the day watching over the antics of these foolish youths and reached my limit.  The only remaining intellectual company was these pages.  You should be grateful of someone who appreciates books to watch over them.”

“A situation I can understand, but in the future you will refrain from touching my books without first receiving my permission,” Wickerbottom informed him.  Reminded, more like, as it was something Maxwell already knew well, but clearly needed to be repeated.

“Yes, that too I can understand,” Maxwell answered, finally standing and stepping aside as WIckerbottom took her customary spot.  “I too would be quite irritable if I found someone was doing anything… unwarranted with my book.  Such texts require special care - bad things can happen to those unprepared who try to manipulate them…”

“Indeed, our books are the same in that regard.  Let only the keeper of each handle the texts in their care,” Wickerbottom answered.

“Indeed,” Maxwell said simply, starting to walk away.  “Good night, Mrs. Wickerbottom.”

“Sleep well, Mr. Maxwell,” Wickerbottom answered, opening the book she had taken from Maxwell, making her own examination of it.  As the Magician settled himself down on a bedroll for the night, the librarian would study him briefly for a few moments through the dark, then returned her focus to her books.

 

 

Edited by Raiden_Sola

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Raiden_Sola    10

Hello all, sorry it's been so long since I posted on my own thread.  There's been so much craziness in the world right now, and work has been very spastic, and add family into the mix, and well that sucks out any and all free time.  The next chapter is finally in the works, and I have some art not ready  yet, and I'll hopefully be able to post again soon, so long as I'm not ambushed with anything else >.<

In the meantime, I've decided to neaten up the thread with some spolier boxes so it's not so horribly long with each chapter.  I'll be releasing future chapters in this format, so don't forget to hit the arrow to read the chapters when they're out.  Hope to have it out in a couple of weeks, if I'm not too distracted with the new beta update :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this