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They were all waiting with bated breath. The countdown on the side of the massive, unusual contraption had almost reached zero and the conversations around had petered off into uncomfortable silence as the Hermits stared, trying to glean any last-minute information from the machine. Grian dug his fingers into his arm and tried to keep from fidgeting. He wished that the thing would just finish. He was itching to know what it was, and he knew all the other Hermits were too.


Someone poked Grian’s arm and a slice of cake was thrust into his face. “Cake?” prompted Scar, a cheerful smile stretched from ear to ear across his face. “Courtesy of the government!” When Grian hesitated, Scar continued, saying, “Come on, Grian, you can’t say no to free cake.”


Grian looked around at the rag-tag group of Hermits perched on top of the building. Scar, Keralis, Doc, and Tango. The five of them hadn’t participated in any of the theorizing that had occurred since the alien spire clock had manifested, one day, in the shopping district, and so here they were, all waiting together to see what this thing was. The rest were all holding cake--well, except for Doc, who was holding an armful of buttons and grinning like Grian had never seen him grin before.


“I suppose.” He was too nervous to eat, but Scar was right--he couldn’t say no to free cake. Grian took the small plate from Scar’s hands and looked back towards the countdown, which was starting to smoke at an alarming rate. “Guys-”


Ka-BOOM! The top of the countdown exploded into a shower of colourful fireworks, spewing light and smoke everywhere. Grian covered his eyes with one hand and dropped the cake to the ground, forgotten.


“Come on!” Scar shouted, and Grian heard a whooshing sound as Scar deployed his elytra and leapt from the roof. “The bottom’s open!” And then a few moments later, there came the loud addition of, “It’s like a pinata, there’s probably free stuff!”


Grian peered through the smoke to confirm that a massive hole had been created where the bottom of the countdown used to be, before jumping off of the building after Scar. He swooped down using his elytra, doing a quick circle around what was left of the spire before he dove into the crater and the room that had been exposed by the explosion. It was a pristine box of white and grey, but Grian didn’t have long to admire it, because he was thrown forward by the force of another explosion and his communicator pinged with two new messages.


ZombieCleo went off with a bang.

VintageBeef went off with a bang.


“Scar!” Grian rounded on the shocked man who was clutching a firework-armed crossbow in his hands. “You’re the mayor!” Tango was laughing beside him, and Grian had to admit that it was pretty funny, though unfortunate for Cleo and Beef, who would have to come all the way back to retrieve their items.


Scar put the crossbow away and held his arms up in a gesture of surrender. “I’m sorry!” he exclaimed in an almost distressed tone. “My hands were shaking; I pulled the trigger by accident…” He looked down at the items scattered across the ground and let out a small wheeze of a laugh. “Does anybody have a chest?”


Leaving Scar to deal with the mess, Grian turned around to face one of the short walls, on which a handful of signs were posted. “Hermitcraft Big Base Swap,” Grian read aloud, and the sound of his voice rising above the others caused the room to quiet down a bit. “Thank you for giving us the deeds to your base in the form of a signed paper submitted before the deadline- oh no.” Grian paused, listening to the other Hermits react, before he continued. “Your base has now been transferred to another Hermit indefinitely. You have been assigned a new base by the HCBBS. Go up to your labelled box and see what base you now own.” He peered at the last sign, on which the text was significantly smaller. “Deeds can be transferred between Hermits. Whoever holds the deed owns the base.”


“Oh boy.” Grian’s not sure exactly who said it, but it seemed to sum up the feelings of all the assembled Hermits. A base swap? Grian wasn’t sure how to react other than being relieved that he didn’t have to work on the back of the mansion anymore.


Grian wandered over to the white shulker box with his name tacked above it and pulled it open, curious to see whose base he was inheriting. “Zedaph,” he muttered to himself as he read the paper. “Oh.”


He heard Scar’s voice from behind him and turned. “I don’t know who I got, could somebody translate this? My dyslexia’s on 110% over here.” Scar held up a scrap of paper, identical to the one that Grian was holding.


Grian quickly made his way over. “Yeah, I’ll read it,” he offered, leaning over Scar’s shoulder. “Uh… Mumbo. You’ve got Mumbo’s base.” A signature scrawled in Mumbo’s handwriting, a small paper clutched in Scar’s grasp. Whoever holds the deed owns the base. Grian was beginning to realize the gravity of the situation.


“And I’ve got yours!” Mumbo called, bounding over to stand next to Scar. “Does that mean that I’m the mayor?” His tone was joking, but Scar seemed to genuinely consider for a moment.


“Does that mean you’re the mayor?” Scar repeated, and his forehead scrunched into a thoughtful furrow.


“It’s just bases, not jobs,” Grian put in. “Your base doesn’t include the Town Hall or anything.” Then he shrugged. “It wasn’t that specific, so I guess you can interpret it how you want.”


“I don’t want to be mayor,” Mumbo said hurriedly, which made Scar laugh. “You can keep it!”


“I guess that’s settled then,” Scar commented, beaming. “We’re going to be our own neighbours, Mumbo. Isn’t that strange?”


Before Mumbo could answer, Grian heard a commotion outside and looked up to see Iskall glide into the room through the hole in the ceiling. He looked windblown, as if he’d flown there very quickly. He seemed to be chattering to himself, saying what sounded like ‘oh no’ over and over again.


“Aw, Iskall seems upset,” Grian said. “I wonder why that is? I mean, I don’t like losing my base, but nothing’s going to get ruined and it’ll be fun to swap bases for a while.”


“Probably just surprised,” Mumbo replied. The three of them all watched as Iskall went over to his box and fished out his new deed. “I wonder who he-”


“Beef!” Iskall shouted as he turned back to the room, answering Mumbo’s unfinished question. “Beef?!” It seemed more like an exclamation than him trying to get Beef’s attention, because when the man in question started over to him, he set off a rocket and flew back out of the room with his new deed in hand.


“I’ll go after him,” Beef announced to nobody in particular, and with the whoosh of a rocket, he left as well.


Grian, Mumbo, and Scar stood quietly for a few moments, watching the other Hermits figure out who they were switching with. Then Scar broke the silence by saying, “Well, I should probably go pick up some things from the chest monster.”


“Yeah, I have some items to grab as well,” Mumbo said. “Grian-”


“Actually, I want to speak to you for a moment,” Grian interrupted, reaching for the arm of Mumbo’s suit and tugging it. “Outside?” He glanced around at the other Hermits.


Mumbo blinked at him, then nodded. “Sure. Sure, yeah.” He looked at Scar and Scar gave them a quick nod of acknowledgement, then deployed his elytra and shot out of the hole before them. Mumbo looked back at Grian, who gestured for him to go first.


Grian followed Mumbo back into the shopping district, spotting him by the giant chorus plant growing next to the HCBBS. He landed next to Mumbo and was greeted with two raised eyebrows.


“You built that thing,” Grian stated bluntly, pointing past Mumbo at the half-destroyed countdown timer. “It looks exactly like the Button and it’s got all the Pacific colours on it too. Plus, you were the first one to discover it.”


Mumbo looked shocked. “I did not!” he exclaimed. “I’ll admit you’re right about most of that with the colours and the discovering and the Button, but I swear I had nothing to do with it!” Mumbo didn’t even let Grian reply before he hurried on. “Grian, I’m telling the truth--if I did build that thing, I don’t remember doing it.”


That’s a weird way to put it, Grian thought, regarding his friend curiously. Mumbo seemed sincere, and Grian had no reason to press the subject. So he dropped it. “Okay,” Grian said. “Okay, you didn’t build it. Just wanted to… bring it up.”


Mumbo half-smiled. “I’ll see you later, Grian.” And in typical Mumbo fashion, he set off a rocket and shot into the air before he was done speaking. “Have fun in Zedaph’s base!”


Grian waved to the slowly-disappearing form of his friend, then turned around. He wasn’t sure exactly where Zedaph’s base was, so he’d have to find him and ask for an escort. Well. At least that gave him time to gather his things from the mansion.


This is going to be interesting.

Iskall swooped around the branches of the Omega Tree of Doom once, regarding it sadly, before diving down the centre. He didn’t stop on any of the top levels--instead, he made his way to the roots and landed by his chests. He couldn’t believe this. His tree… the project he had sworn would be finished after a hundred days… it was being given to another Hermit with only four weeks left to complete it.


He combed some stray hairs out of his face with his fingers and lifted the lid of a nearby chest. Iskall wasn’t sure what he’d be needing, so he just started grabbing a bit of everything… but then he was interrupted as someone landed heavily on the ground behind him.


“This place is even more beautiful on the inside,” said Beef, and when Iskall turned around he could see the other man looking around in awe. “Do you know where your new bases are or do I need to show you?”


Iskall steadied himself against one of the wood-wrought walls. “Bases?” he repeated. “You have more than one?”


“You have more than one,” Beef corrected, and Iskall tried to swallow the lump in his throat. Right. His new bases. The bases that he was leaving his beloved tree for…


“Then, um, no, I don’t know where they are.” Iskall scratched his head sheepishly. “I know where your- my desert base is, though. Could I meet you there after… after I finish grabbing some things?” He didn’t want to leave yet. He couldn’t bear to leave yet.


Beef nodded. “‘Course. I’ve got a few things I want to do, too,” he said. Beef reached out, as if he were going to give Iskall a reassuring pat on the shoulder, but hesitated and pulled his arm back instead. “Meet you there in an hour or so?”


“Yeah.” Iskall dug his fingers into the rough wood of the tree to ground himself. “Sure.” It would be nice to get away from the Omega Tree for a while, wouldn’t it? Just a short break… then he could get the deed back, finish the tree… but he just didn’t know if he had the time. There was so much left to do-


“See you then!” Beef called, before setting off a firework and shooting up into the sky. Iskall watched the trail of sparks and smoke dissipate, then went back to his chests.


Maybe having Beef in the Omega Tree wouldn’t be so bad. There were some things he just didn’t have the time to work on, and maybe Beef could bring his own touch to the interior. But still… he’d spent so long working on it that it almost felt like giving up to abandon it for someone else’s base. No. He wasn’t abandoning it. He’d be back. He just needed to convince Beef to swap deeds.


As Iskall flew up through the tree to the branches, he felt anxious. It had happened so fast… and what if he couldn’t convince Beef to switch back? What then? He’d never forgive himself if he didn’t finish the Omega Tree in time. He needed a plan.


Iskall clicked his mechanical eye onto another setting, overlaying a helpful guide to Beef’s desert base over the landscape. He’d been there before, so it was automatically stored for him. His elytra shifted to catch the wind perfectly and he coasted up into the clouds, casting one last glance at the Omega Tree as he glided away.


I’ll be back soon. I promise.

Scar wiped beads of sweat from his brow as he finished hammering down the last tent peg. His leather jacket was laying a few paces away, discarded from the heat, and Scar was grateful for the cowboy hat on his head keeping most of the sun off of his neck and face. He let out a sigh and stood up, shaking exhaustion from his limbs as he entered the small green tent.


“I think that’s enough work for now,” Scar commented, his gaze falling on a familiar grey shape sitting on his fold-out cot. “Don’t you agree, Jellie?” He reached out and stroked the top of her head, eliciting a happy mew from the cat. “I’m going to go look around downstairs and see if I can get some inspiration for how to improve Mumbo’s base. Want to come?”


Jellie hesitated for a moment, then hopped onto Scar’s shoulder. Scar laughed and sauntered back out of the tent, picking up his leather jacket and slinging it over his arm as he went. The weight on his shoulder was comforting and brought a grin to Scar’s face as he made his way to the edge.


“Hold on tight!” Scar warned, reaching up to make sure that Jellie didn’t fall from his shoulder. Then he deployed his elytra and hopped from the ledge, gently gliding down to the ground level of Mumbo’s--his, now--base. He then jumped through one of the Nether portals and landed solidly in the centre of what looked to be an intricate sorting system. 


“Woah.” Scar’s eyes lit up as he looked around at the wall-to-wall assortment of chests stocked with items. He started forward and Jellie leapt from his shoulder to the grass, giving him a content mew as they moved in different directions. “This is like… this is like the chest monster’s cooler older brother.” He laughed to himself, flicking his gaze over all the various indicators in item frames. Wood, stone, dye, terracotta, dirt, netherrack, purpur, obsidian, blackstone, iron, gold, sand… Scar couldn’t even begin to count them all. He opened a few at random, picking through the resources that Mumbo had acquired over the season. And, he supposed, now it all belonged to him. Though… there was a wide range of resources, but individually, definitely not enough to complete some of the projects Scar wanted to start with his new base. He’d have to do some resource gathering before he can get to work.


Or… Scar scratched his chin. Mumbo would never know if he pilfered a few things from the chest monster. Heck, he barely noticed when people stole a few stacks here and there behind his back, and it was his chest monster! Though not anymore. Scar chuckled to himself. Mumbo’s problem, now.


It was decided. He’d pop over in the morning, pick up a few things, and zip away without Mumbo noticing a thing. The perfect crime. Scar rubbed his hands together eagerly, excited to start working on improving the other Hermit’s base. Mumbo was a fine builder, but Scar knew there were some things to be done to make the ancient monument look even better.


The erratic heartbeat of the base made Scar’s attention shift. Did it just change? Is it on some kind of timer? Curious, Scar unfurled his elytra and shot up the centre of the base, calling, “Come on, Jellie!” as he went. He wasn’t too worried about her, though--she was magical, after all.


As Scar swooped around the base, he spotted what looked like two countdowns made of redstone lamps on one of the sides. He tucked in his elytra and landed, slightly off-balance, in front of the wall and looked up at it. One of the countdowns was significantly lower than the other, and there was a chest sitting in front, presumably for something to be placed inside. Scar hummed thoughtfully. Maybe he could ask Mumbo about this when he nipped over to his old base.


The heartbeat was bothering him. It was louder up there, beating out at an irregular pace. He wasn’t used to such a strange, arrhythmic, all-consuming sound--it felt as if it were drowning out all the natural sounds of the jungle that Scar had come to love so much. Scar wondered why Mumbo had decided to make the base alive at all--it seemed to him like nothing but an annoyance.


He stood there, looking at the redstone lamps, for a few more moments. Then the sun caught the edge of the base and Scar realized how late it was getting. There was work to be done in the morning--no sense staying up late to stare at some redstone, as interesting as it was. As the sun dipped towards the horizon, Scar flew back around the base to his temporary living quarters to find Jellie waiting for him, as well as… “Right. I should probably organize this stuff,” he said to nobody in particular, looking directly at the small storage area inside his tent. Organization was not one of Scar’s strong suits, but considering it was only a handful of barrels, it couldn’t be too hard to keep them from getting messy. So he discarded his leather jacket again, rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt, and started to sort.


Scar was up to his elbow reaching into a barrel stuffed with dirt and podzol when a curious sound made him stop and look around for the source. The source, as it often was, was Jellie, munching away on a familiar piece of paper. “Hey!” Scar tugged his arm out of the soil and reached over to snatch the deed to his new base from Jellie’s mouth. “Don’t eat that! It’s important!” But when he uncrumpled the document, he was dismayed to see that most of it was already gone, presumably eaten by his cat. “Jellie…” Scar pulled on a disappointed look, which he fixed his pet with. “You know I can’t stay mad at you, but I needed this.” He waved the ruined paper around.


He intended to continue speaking, but a sudden rush of vertigo took him by surprise. His head spun and he reached out to catch himself against one of the barrels. The tent shifted in and out of focus and he blinked his eyes to try to clear his vision, but the feeling persisted. Scar heard Jellie mew at him and wanted to reassure her that he was okay, but when he tried to move towards her, he collapsed onto his knees. “I’m good. I’m… good,” Scar breathed out slowly as his head started to return to normal, more trying to convince himself than his cat.


Jellie appeared at his hand and nudged it comfortingly. He smiled softly, using one finger to stroke her cheek, and finally, the world blurred back into how he regularly saw it. “I’m good,” Scar said again. “Just a little dizzy, I promise.”


She licked his finger and watched him with concerned-looking green eyes as he slowly got to his feet. “Don’t you worry about me.” Using one of the tent poles as support, Scar moved over to the fold-down cot hanging from the roof beams. “And don’t worry about the deed, either. I can just… make a new one. It’s not a big deal.” He sat down on the cot and closed his eyes, tipping his head back as he let out a long sigh. “I’m the mayor, I can pardon myself forging a few documents on account of a cat.” Scar laughed quietly. “It’s fine.”


Scar lay down on the cot and Jellie climbed onto his chest. “I was about to say that I think I just need some sleep, but you seem to think the same thing, huh?” He stroked Jellie’s head and reached down to his feet, where a blanket was bundled up. Scar slowly pulled it up to cover both of them and he smiled as Jellie purred against his neck. “G’night, Jellie.”


Jellie just meowed happily in response.

“One end can go… here,” Mumbo said to himself, marking it down with a block of red concrete. “And then if… ten of those… one, two, three, four-” He pointed at the blocks as he counted them. “All the way down to… here, maybe?” He shot over to the other end (or where he was going to put it) using his elytra and set down another red block to indicate it. Mumbo stepped back, regarding the space he had designated to put a giant storage system in, and hummed to himself. “Perfect.”


He stretched his arms above his head and let out a groan that quickly turned into a sigh. He’d barely done anything, and yet he felt like he’d been working all day, with the commotion of the HCBBS and his excited exploration of ScarX and the magical village. Mumbo popped the top button of his shirt and loosened his tie a bit, grimacing at the sweat pooling around the back of his neck. It was hot, standing out in the sun where the chest monster was and the new storage system was going to go. When working on his old base, with how tall it was, the strong wind was usually enough to keep him cool, and so it had been a while since he had worked down on the ground in the sweltering sun like this.


Mumbo placed down a few more blocks in the middle so that it didn’t look like he’d done nothing, then turned and started to head back towards the chest monster. I’ll build the storage system tomorrow, he thought, quickly coming upon the pile of chests and shulker boxes. With a small sigh, he added silently, Scar needs- I need one.


The sun was just catching the top of the nearby trees when Mumbo felt a sudden jab of pain in his chest, directly where his heart was. His brow furrowed in confusion and he reached up to prod the sore area, before another jab, worse, hit him, this one travelling through his chest and into his legs. He was shaking and breathing heavily as he staggered to a nearby collection of shulker boxes, not sure where this pain was coming from or what he should do about it.


Mumbo sat down heavily on the shulker boxes, trying to calm himself as the pain started to fade. He gripped his knees with his hands and leaned over, closing his eyes and slowing his breathing in an attempt to settle his racing heart. He was fine. Sometimes things just happened. He could pick up a healing potion to make sure that there was nothing wrong--other than that, he didn’t think he had any reason to worry. Still, part of him wanted to tell someone, but he pushed that feeling away. It wasn’t a big deal, just a little pain. If it came back, then he would consider getting a second opinion. He was fine.


He brushed a few strands of dark hair from his eyes and tucked them back into place, then he ran his fingers through the top of his hair to comb it all back and yawned. There was nothing wrong with turning in a little bit early, since he had so much to do the next day. If I can find a bed, Mumbo thought wryly. He wouldn’t be surprised if Scar slept in a tree like a cat.


Mumbo stuck his hands in the pockets of his dress pants and absent-mindedly wandered around the chest monster, looking for the book he’d written down his plans in. “Oh, come on, it has to be here somewhere…” he muttered, after being unable to find it in the spot he’d last seen it. Poking through some nearby chests didn’t elicit anything helpful, nor did moving some of the shulker boxes. He no longer questioned why Scar lost everything he touched--just an hour or so around the chest monster and he’d already had a book disappear into its clutches. For what felt like the millionth time that day, Mumbo sighed.


He quickly lit a rocket and shot into the air with his elytra, resigned to simply making another book. He had his plans memorized, anyway. The book was just a precaution to keep everything in order.


Mumbo swooped around the giant drill mechanism and dove towards the magical village that doubled as Scar’s villager trading hall. He passed over the trees and made his way to Scar’s snail house--Barry? Larry? Jerry? He couldn’t remember. He landed on the small porch and stopped. There was no door.


For a moment, this puzzled him, then he laughed. It seemed Grian had been keeping up with his challenge to steal doors all season. Smiling, Mumbo walked inside the snail, still feeling a bit weird about commandeering someone else’s bed, but he was tired and it looked comfortable enough, so… 


Discarding his suit jacket and tie over the back of a chair, Mumbo glanced at the doorway. Should he put a door on? He’d hate to be woken up in the middle of the night by a zombie or a skeleton or something. Seemed like a good idea, even if Grian was probably just going to steal it sometime soon.


He crafted a new door using a nearby crafting table and some wood, then lugged it over to the doorway and hefted it into place. “There.” Mumbo turned back to the bed, which he still had inhibitions about, and hesitated.


Mumbo made his decision. He marched over to the bed, took up an armful of blankets and pillows, and tossed them into an empty spot on the floor. Even if his back would hate him in the morning, he was more comfortable making arrangements on the floor than sleeping in Scar’s bed.


Not wanting to debate with himself any longer, Mumbo cocooned himself into the pile of blankets and fell asleep.

Some ways away, in another jungle, the server’s admin was one of the last awake. Xisuma had heard about all the excitement earlier in the day from Keralis, who had stopped by to catch him up on the HCBBS before he left for Cleo’s base. It was going to be strange, having a new neighbour so late in the season. Though he hoped the swap would have a good impact on both Keralis and Cleo--and all the Hermits that had swapped, for that matter.


Xisuma fluttered around the outside of one of his towers with his elytra, grateful that he hadn’t put his name into the strange contraption. He didn’t think he’d be able to stand letting another Hermit have free reign over his base--he trusted them all, of course, but there was still something so deeply personal about something he’d built from the ground up. A connection that he had with it. But most of the other Hermits seemed to be having fun with the swap, from what Xisuma had heard.


He lifted his left arm, where a communicator was built into the forearm of his suit. It activated with the push of a button, projecting a holographic display of the chat. Xisuma clicked the button again, switching it to a list he’d made earlier of all the Hermits who had switched and who they had switched with. Mumbo and Scar, False and Tango, Cub and Doc, Joe and xB, Iskall and Beef, Cleo and Keralis, Zedaph and Grian, and Impulse and Stress. They all seemed very… deliberate. Precise matches to place those with opposite skill sets in the other’s base. On the surface, it seemed just like a fun event organized by an undisclosed server member who decided not to tell the admin. But Xisuma wasn’t so sure.


I’ll keep an eye on them, Xisuma decided, scanning the list again. It was quite a lot of people, but Xisuma managed most things on the server single-handedly. He could do this. I hope I’m wrong. I hope this is just a surprise event. He wasn’t even sure what he was worried about, it just… something felt off about the whole thing, and it had felt that way since he had first laid eyes on the countdown in the shopping district.


Xisuma watched the twinkling lights of Keralis’ (now Cleo’s) base in the distance as he sat atop the tower. Keep an eye on the Hermits, make sure that they were all safe. That was his job, after all. And if somebody got hurt, well… Xisuma would never forgive himself.


A few messages pinged his communicator, the same sort of happy, excited messages he’d been seeing all day, and his anxiety pulled back a bit, letting him smile.


<cubfan135> love the open concept you’ve got going over here, Doc

<Docm77> ha ha.

<Docm77> Have you found the tunnel bore yet?

<cubfan135> I’ll look at it in the morning, I’m exhausted.

<Renthedog> still sad that I didn’t get to switch with anyone… :(


He switched his communicator off there. It was nice to see the messages, but he had things to get done before turning in for the night. Xisuma stood up and spread his elytra wings, stretching his arms above his head to work out some stiffness in his shoulders before jumping off the edge. Hopefully, a little work would help him stop worrying about the base swap so much. It was good to be a little concerned, but he didn’t want to be overreacting.


The sun set on Hermitcraft, and things began to shift.