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The First's Power

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            Lindsay held the yarn above Percival the ocelot. The cat batted at the yarn playfully, and Lindsay smiled. She was watching Percival for Ray while the kingdom was put back in order. She was more than happy to help, and she absolutely adored cats. She sat in the main room of her Nether house, a fire in the fireplace and her friends sat in chairs around the room.

            One such friend, Jeremy, snuck up behind Lindsay, bottle in hand. He waited until he had a clear shot, and then he threw the potion at the ground near Percival. The bottle broke and Percival was splashed with a silver liquid that instantly turned him invisible. Lindsay let out a shout, startled, and then she felt the ground where Percival used to be. Jeremy punched the air.

            "Direct hit! Booyah!" The man had the appearance of a harmless hobo, but he was, in fact, the most skilled potion master in the world, and he often wore the head of the first zombie that he had killed with one of his potions. Lindsay turned, irritated.

            "Dammit, Jeremy. How can I watch Percival if I can't actually see him?"

            Jeremy laughed. "Try squinting." He laughed some more. He really enjoyed turning things invisible without their direct consent. It was the easiest potion to make, and he had a surplus. Kdin was the best person to do it to. He would always get frustrated when he couldn't see his hands anymore.

            Matt, who had been reading in the chair next to the fireplace, yelped as he felt something leap onto his lap. There was silver smoke, and it was purring softly. Matt awkwardly put his hands under the cloud and picked up the invisible Percival. He stood up and handed him to Lindsay.

            "Here you go. Scared the fuck out of me. I was trying to read about Golemancy and that cat decides to leap on me. I will kill that cat."

 Lindsay held the empty space close to her. "No you won't. This isn't my cat, and I don't think that Ray would appreciate you killing the first ocelot." Matt and Jeremy laughed together. It was funny to see the bird protect the cat. 

            The fire turned purple and Kdin stepped out of it with a puff of purple smoke. Lindsay looked at her watch.

            "Oh, shit, is it that late already?"

            Kdin nodded. "Come on, we don't want to be late. Caleb will kill us." Lindsay grabbed the spare bottle of milk she always kept in case Jeremy did anything with potions that she didn't like, and she emptied it onto the invisible Percival, who instantly became visible. Jeremy groaned, disappointed. Lindsay put Percival in his cage, and Kdin opened the portal in the fireplace. The murky water like portal looked like the night sky, and it sounded like the void, which surprisingly sounded like a low humming sound. They crouched down and crawled through. The travel always felt like getting stretched from one point to the other, and Kdin always neglected to mention that this was indeed what happened. They crawled into Kdin's living room one by one. Everyone but Kdin had to take a minute to recover from the journey, as they always did. It usually blacked out their vision, as if they had stood up too fast.

            "Okay, let's go." Kdin walked swiftly out the door. They followed, still a little nauseous. The sky in the End was black, as it always was, and the obsidian pillars were shining like beacons. They walked across the land mass to a white building, end stone crunching beneath their feet. It was always unsettling to be in the End. It was really creepy. The endermen squeaked and groaned around them. They caught the door to the building as Kdin walked inside, and they hurried in.

            Caleb's hospital was almost bigger than it needed to be. Until recently, the only people that Caleb treated were the five of them. Now it was six. The four of them piled into the cramped elevator and went up to the second floor. The elevator dinged open, and they walked down the hall to the open room. Caleb was writing on a clipboard and he looked up at them.

            "Hey guys, I'll be with you in just a second. Just gotta finish this crossword." He looked back at his clipboard and he thought for a second. He shrugged, wrote something down, and then he turned. "Gavin is in the restroom getting dressed. He'll be out in a minute."

            "How is he doing?" Lindsay asked.

            "Sore. His leg muscles have atrophied the tiniest bit, but he's ready to walk without too much pain, which is to be expected after not walking for three weeks. He's not in full control of his hand yet, but I'm sure Matt's going to help him out."

            Matt nodded. "I'll need to do some tests to see how it's functioning." Matt was a master of all things redstone. In fact, the elevator outside was one of his inventions. He had made Gavin his new hand by applying the principals of Golemancy to redstone. Jeremy threw himself into a chair.

            "If it helps, I'm working on a potion that I'm hoping will heal Golems. I just need to find out why the test subjects always explode after an hour."

            Matt frowned. "I'll pass, if it's all the same to you." The door of the restroom started to open. Jeremy stood up, and they watched the door nervously. Gavin walked out, taking slow steps, his sore muscles restricting his movement. The arrow in his stomach was stuck through a hole that had been cut in his shirt and hemmed. The arrow itself was made of oak wood, and the feathersthat had been used to balance the arrow were white, but they were speckled with blood stains from Gavin's death. Gavin smiled sheepishly as he closed the door behind him. Lindsay brought a chair over to him, and Gavin sat down.

            "Thanks." He grimaced as he leaned down, exhaling. "So why are you all here to watch me get out of bed for the first time?"

            "Now that you're up and around, we wanted to talk to you about living arrangements." Kdin said. "And we wanted to talk to you about something that we've noticed."

            Caleb cleared his throat. "Before we do that, Gavin needs to take a walk down the hall and back to stretch his legs." He looked at Gavin. "Do you need someone to walk with you, or do you think you've got it?" Gavin shrugged.

            "I think I can handle it." Caleb nodded and gave Gavin minimal help in getting to his feet. Gavin walked to the door and put his new hand on the handle. He attempted to move his fingers around it, but they would not budge. Gavin dropped his arm to his side, defeated. Jeremy leaned over and opened the door. Gavin nodded at him meaningfully, and he walked out. They followed him, and they waited as Gavin walked to the end of the hall, slowly, and then back. They all went back into the room. Gavin going straight for the bed. Caleb hooked the clipboard onto the bed.

            "Okay Gavin, you're gonna need about six weeks of physical therapy to get everything back in order and for you to feel one hundred percent. Well, you would, but Jeremy has the most effective healing potions in the world, so that time is halved."

            Jeremy piped up. "They don't work that well on muscles, but I'm working on that."

            Gavin looked at Caleb, relieved. "Three weeks tops?"

            "Three weeks tops."

            "And then I can go back?"

            They were all silent. They knew this was coming. At least, Kdin and Lindsay did.

            Lindsay broke the silence before Kdin could be an ass about the whole thing. "I don't think so Gavin. Three weeks isn't enough time."

            "But it's already been three weeks!" Gavin moaned.

            "Yes, but they are still getting things calmed down after your death."

            "I'm not dead." Gavin muttered.

            "No, you aren't. But they think you are. And they are rebuilding to accompany that. They have to cope."

            "But they wouldn't have to cope if they bloody knew that I was alive!"

            "Gavin, I know you miss them. They're your family. But they have to move past the grief and accept the loss before you come in again."

            Gavin decided he didn't want to discuss it anymore so he scoffed. "You know, now that I think about it, they may not really miss me at all."

            Lindsay was shocked. "Gavin! Why would you say that? Of course they miss you! Why wouldn't they?"

            Gavin looked at Lindsay, and the rest of them, puzzled. "You know why!"

They shook their heads. Gavin frowned. "Wait a minute. Don't you guys know what happened?"

            Kdin's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean? What happened?"

            "You don't know how I died at all?"

            Matt nodded. "Yeah, course we do. You died saving them from a horde of mobs. You died a hero. They said so at the funeral."

            Gavin was dumbfounded. "A... hero? Really?" Tears were welling up in his eyes.

            "Yeah. Why are you surprised?"

            Gavin shook his head. "It's just... I thought they would hate me."

            "Because you saved them?"

            "No, you don't understand. I didn't save them."

            Lindsay sat down next to Gavin. "Of course you did. Why would they lie about that?" Gavin looked at up at her, confusion and tears in his eyes.

            "I don't know. I really don't."

            "Well, how did you die?"

            "It's not that simple."

            "Give us the short version."

            Gavin took a deep breath. "Alright." He wiped the tears from his eyes. "I died trying to... kill them." Lindsay gasped. Jeremy fell into the chair in surprise. Kdin and Matt almost didn't process the statement. Caleb looked like he had seen a ghost.

            "WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN YOU TRIED TO KILL THEM?" Kdin yelled.

            "KDIN!"

            "WHAT LINDSAY? I WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE FUCK THE FUCKING FOOL MEANS WHEN HE SAYS HE TRIED TO KILL HIS FRIENDS!"

            Gavin frowned. "Don't call me that."

            Kdin started to yell again, but the statement surprised him. "Wait, the Fool?"

            Gavin nodded. "I'm not a fool. I'm clever. I know how to persuade and deceive. I'm not foolish." He looked gravely serious, so Kdin nodded.

            "Alright. I won't call you the Fool. But in return, you have to tell us what the hell happened."

            "Okay. Fine. I'll tell you all everything. You might want to sit down." They gathered around him. Caleb and Matt sat on the floor while Jeremy and Kdin sat in chairs and Lindsay sat on the bed. Gavin told them about the maze, about how he had banished Ryan to the Nether, at which point Lindsay revealed that she had helped Ryan survive, and then he told them about the night of his coronation. He neglected to mention, however, the shadowy figure that had appeared to him. He explained how he had sat in his throne room for a month without any contact with his friends, and how he had planned and executed a plan to break the Tower and kill them all in order to get them to fear him. The faces of his audience became more and more horrified. Gavin told of how he had chained them up in his throne room for a month while he planned and built his competition for the crown. He told them about all the horrible things he did to them, and when he got to the part where Michael had blown him up, and he had tortured him, Gavin lost his composure. He sobbed violently, the echoes of his own laughter and Michael's screams and the heat of the flames vivid in his mind. Lindsay glared at him with both deep anger, and deep empathy. He had tortured her husband. But he seemed to regret it so much that Lindsay could not help but feel sorry for him. So instead of punching him, Lindsay gave Gavin a quick hug. Gavin was surprised, and after he had stopped crying, he continued. He talked about how they had gotten to a five-way tie, and Gavin had gotten so angry with them that he had put them up in the air to kill each other. Gavin told them about the rage and betrayal he felt when they had turned their bows on him. He told about the battle with Geoff and Jack, and how he and Michael fought viciously, until Michael defeated him. He told them how Ryan had shot him with an arrow, and Michael had cut off his hand. Lindsay gasped, horrified. Then he ended his story, and laid back onto the bed, the arrow jutting up into the air. They didn't know what to say. Neither did he. No one talked for a long time. No one wanted to talk. Finally, Kdin asked Gavin the question.

            "Why?"

            Gavin kept his eyes closed. "They tortured me. They bullied me for years. I decided that it was time to make them realize how much pain they caused me."

            Lindsay shook her head. "I refuse to believe that you could have done that."

            Gavin sat up. "Believe it. I did it, okay? I murdered them for fun."

            "But you regret it, yeah?"

            Gavin sighed, staring at the arrow in his chest. "I don't know. But I know I made them hate me. I just know it. I never told them I was sorry about it. I felt justified. But now I don't know."

            After another moment of silence, Kdin decided that this was something to talk about in a more official situation. "Gavin, we will discuss this more later. Matt needs to do some tests on your hand to see how it's functioning."

            "Well, it's pretty weak, I can tell you that." Gavin said glumly.

            Matt cleared his throat. "That's something we can work on. If you can learn how to control it, it'll be like any normal hand. I have some testing equipment in my lab, if Kdin would like to open a portal."

            Caleb held out his hands. "No, don't open that in here! I don't want anything to get in." Kdin shrugged and opened a portal anyway. Caleb moaned in defeat. In a few seconds they were in Matt's workshop. Piles of redstone and iron littered the tables, and crafting benches and furnaces lined the walls. Matt walked over to a table that had multiple oddly shaped objects and tools on it and grabbed a random box of materials. He sat it down on the big table in the middle and cleared a space of books and scrolls.

            "Gavin, come over here and sit down." Matt said, rummaging in the box. Gavin complied, and Matt took out a small bottle of redstone labeled "Pure" and sat down next to Gavin. "Hey, Jeremy, go get me that magnifying glass stand." Gavin's hand was easily the most technologically advanced and by far the cleanest thing Matt had ever created. He was determined to keep it in the highest working order so that he would have a main exhibit in his museum. The hand was made out of polished iron, and it was completely solid, without a seam, except for at the finger joints, and even those were barely noticeable. Matt set out multiple objects of various strengths and laid them in front of Gavin. The rest crowded around them. "Jeremy, where is the magnifying glass?"

            "Oh, yeah, right. Sorry." Jeremy went to grab the magnifying glass and set it next to Matt.

            Matt nodded. "Thank you, lovely assistant."

            "I'm not your assistant."

            "Whatever." Matt said as he positioned the magnifying glass over Gavin's hand. The magnifying glass showed redstone lighting up through walls, so Matt didn't have to open the whole thing if there wasn't a need for it. Instantly Matt could see dim red wires running like veins through the fake hand. Matt smiled at the irony. "Okay Gavin, just try moving your hand at first." Gavin lifted his wrist and the redstone in that area glowed brightly. "Okay, now make a fist." Gavin tried to curl his hand, but the redstone that ran through his fingers only glowed for a moment before losing its light again. Matt huffed. "Lay out your hand flat." He pushed down on each of the fingers and panels of metal slid back, revealing tubes of redstone. Gavin looked slightly horrified. Matt tapped the wires and he brought the magnifying glass closer. "Oh, duh, I just need stronger repeaters. These have shorted out. It was probably the pure redstone that did it." He left the table to get more repeaters, which gave the others room to peer at Gavin's open fingers. Gavin himself was having a hard time trying not to gag, despite the insides of his hand not actually being something to gag about. In fact, it was kind of cool. Matt walked back over and pushed them aside so that he could sit down again, and he laid out the repeaters and took the cork out of the bottle of pure redstone. "Unrefined. Powerful. Hard to get. Don't fuck it up by sticking it into a wood-chipper or something." Gavin nodded. Matt replaced the redstone in the new repeaters with pure redstone and popped the burnt repeaters out of their sockets. Gavin shivered with the feeling.

            "It feels like I have no fingers now."

            "Well, that's what happens when your nervous system is linked up to redstone. The circuit gets broken and you don't feel a thing." Matt said, not looking up from his work.

            "Was it necessary to wire me in?"

            Matt dropped his hand to the table and looked at Gavin in disbelief. "Gavin, do you know anything about the nervous system? Nerves create electricity. I had to make a very complex electricity to redstone power converter." He shook his head and went back to replacing the repeaters.  "Electricity is so hard to work with. I'm glad no one uses it."

            Ten minutes later, Matt replaced the covers on Gavin's fingers. "Okay, Gavin, try making a fist." Gavin cautiously curled his fist with no problems. Matt nodded, relieved. "Okay, now grip strength. Pick up that stick." Gavin picked up the stick. "Now that bottle." Gavin picked up the bottle. "Rock." Rock. "Clay." Clay. Matt was satisfied, and the magnifying glass showed all circuits running. "Good. Everything seems to be in order. Until Jeremy makes that water resistance potion that I've been asking about, don't get that hand too wet." Jeremy sniggered next to him. "Grow the fuck up man."

            Gavin hopped to his feet, completely forgetting his weakness, and he almost fell to the ground as Caleb caught him. "Whoa, buddy, take it slow. You may have a golem hand, but you aren't actually a golem." Gavin was reeling with vertigo, and Caleb guided him back onto the stool.

            After he recovered, Gavin managed to ask a question. "What was it that Lindsay said about my hand reaching sentience?"

            Matt laughed. "Oh, that's really unlikely. Yeah, your hand is technically a golem, but have you seen the sentience they have at their normal size? The chance of something that small thinking is next to nothing."

            "But is it possible?" Lindsay asked. She thought that Gavin having to deal with a sentient hand would be a pretty funny sight.

            "Yes, technically it is possible."

Gavin stood up again, slowly this time, and supporting himself on the table. When he was firmly on his feet, he stared at his hand. "I wonder how the guys are gonna react to me having a metal hand." The rest of them shrugged, because they were wondering how the guys would react to Gavin in general.

 

            Ryan listened to the servant read off the inventory of the kingdom’s storeroom as he lounged on the throne, bored out of his mind. The crown sat loosely on his head, and he adjusted his hair underneath it to get rid of his discomfort. His mind snapped to attention when he heard the sound of glass shattering. He turned to where the workers were constructing the stained glass window to commemorate Gavin’s reign. The servant on the ladder smiled sheepishly at him.

            “Be careful! This stained glass needs to be perfect, and it won’t be if you keep breaking the pieces.” Ryan said. He wanted it to be perfect. They all did. It was the least they could do for him. In the past, the King would design his own stained glass. But due to the circumstances, the five of them decided to design it together. It depicted none of the horrible things that he had done. In the image, Gavin sat upon the Tower, fireworks springing from his hands, smiling. It was how they wanted Gavin to be remembered. A  bringer of joy. The throne was still partially destroyed, but their miners were working hard to find the needed gold. The workers bowed.

            “Yes, your highness. It won’t happen again.” They rushed out to make a new piece of glass. The servant with the inventory snapped the scroll shut.

            “Sire, what do you suggest we do about the cow shortage?”

            Ryan’s face hardened. “What do you mean by cows?”

            The servant saw his mistake. “Oh, nothing sire! It’s just that the hunters have had a hard time finding cows, and we are running low on beef.”

            “That’s right.” Ryan thought for a moment. “Send out more hunting parties a day. The cows may be hiding. If we’re everywhere, they can’t hide.”

            The servant bowed. “Yes sire. I’ll tell them.” He walked out, almost bumping into Geoff as he did so. “Oh, excuse me sir.”

            Geoff smiled and slapped his hand on the servant’s shoulder. “No problem.” The servant smiled nervously and walked on. Geoff made sure the door was closed as he entered.

            “Good to see you Geoff.”

            “Yeah, you too.”

            “How is Michael doing?”

            Geoff frowned. “Not much better since the funeral. He’s eating now, but he still won’t say anything. Ray is trying to talk to him, but he sits in his quarters just kind of staring at the sword he… used.”

            “He blames himself.”

            “Wouldn’t you?”

            They were silent for a moment as Ryan thought. “No.” He said finally. “I wouldn’t blame myself. It was an accident. You seem to forget that I had a part in it.”

            Geoff shook his head. “Never. But, he has. That’s the problem. Jack doesn’t know what to do, and I’ve run out of ideas. So what do you suggest?”

            Ryan sighed. “Give him time. I think that’s all we can do. He’ll get better. He’s Michael. He knows how to take a punch.”

            Geoff scoffed. “I would call this more than a punch.”

            Ryan frowned and gripped the arm of the throne. “Geoff, it may not look like it, but I’m grieving too. So if you’re suggesting that I don’t know how you all are feeling-“

            “No, that’s not at all what I’m saying. I just- It’s been hard.”

            Ryan relaxed and sat back. He sighed. “I know. But Gavin wouldn’t want us to dwell on it. He would want us to keep on moving. At least, I think he would.”

            Geoff sighed as well. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I think I’m gonna go walk through town. Clear my head.”

            “See if Ray will go with you. It’ll be good for him too. He can stop worrying about Michael, at any rate.”

            Geoff gave a noncommittal shrug. “Okay. Good talk.”

            Ryan smiled. “Yeah.”

            Geoff turned and left. Ryan rubbed his eyes. He noticed the silence that had filled the room. He could hear his own heartbeat. Before, being alone in the castle would have been fine. No matter where you were, you could always hear laughter, usually Gavin’s. But now the halls were silent. The castle seemed bigger. It was weird for him to think, he was a grown man, but he felt smaller. Every step echoed, and every creak was heard. With Gavin there was festivals, races, and screaming. Now that he was gone, none of that happened. The guards patrolled the halls like they were supposed to, and the knights stayed in their rooms. The dining room was gathering dust. Ryan was pulled out of his thoughts as the window makers returned to the room, clutching the new piece of glass tight. Ryan sighed. He figured he better supervise this time around.


            Geoff knocked on Ray’s door.

            “One second!” Ray called from within. The door opened and Ray leaned through. “Yes?”

            “I was gonna walk through the town. Do you wanna join me? Get some fresh air.”

            Ray frowned. “I was actually going to check on Michael.”

            “Yeah. About that. Maybe you shouldn’t try so hard to help him through. Just give him some time, you know?”

            Ray opened the door the rest of the way. “So I should just not see him until he decides to talk?”

            “No, just don’t try so hard to make him. He’ll get back to normal when he’s good and ready.”

            Ray frowned. “Well, I guess I can give it a break this one time.”

            Geoff smiled. “Good to hear it.” He turned and motioned for Ray to follow. “I heard that the baker is having a special on cakes.” Ray hurried his step.

            “I fucking love that guy’s cakes, wait for me.”


            The muffled sound of citizens became louder as the large doors into town opened. Ray and Geoff walked through and were met with applause and praises, before Geoff announced that they were just taking a walk. The crowd parted slightly around them as they walked down the main street.

            All around them, citizens went about their business, gossiping, shopping, and bowing as the knights went past. Geoff noted that the street was busier than usual as they continued to Logo Square. The portion of Achievement City that was actually city was home to about four thousand people, and the city itself was circular, and three miles in diameter, with the castle dead center. The land outside the city was home to more people still. Woodcutters, miners, and farmers all made their homes outside. Hunters did not actually live outside of the city, but they did spend most of their time there.

            Ray felt a tug on his suit. He looked down and saw a little girl holding a rose. The girl held it out to him, and he took it and smiled at her. She giggled and ran over to her waiting parents. Ray smelled the flower as he walked. It was hard being in a position of authority, but moments like that made it all worth it. He tucked the rose into his shirt pocket as they emerged onto the square. Geoff's house loomed in front of them. All the original houses were still intact. They all still used them, when they needed to take a break from the castle. Between the houses, shops and restaurants had been built, and seeing as this was a popular place for all citizens, they got a lot of business. The baker here was the best in the entire town, and people flocked for his cakes. Ray and Geoff made their way over to the building and waited. While they were knights, they didn't want to be unfair. When they got to the counter, the baker greeted them cheerfully.

            "Lord Geoff! Lord Ray! How are you two doing?"

            "Just fine, thank you. How is the bakery life treating you?" Geoff asked, leaning on the counter.

            "Just as well as when you last visited! Two cakes, I assume?"

            "For me, yeah." Ray replied, making the baker laugh. "I don't know about Geoff."

            "Ray, you never fail to make me laugh. Even in sad times such as these. My family was deeply saddened by the news of Lord Gavin. I can't imagine what you all must be going through. How is Lord Michael, by the way? Everyone is worried about him."

            Geoff bowed. "He's recovering. And thank you. We're getting through."

            The baker turned and retrieved the cakes. "Milord's, here are your cakes."

            Ray took them. "Awesome." He took a bite out of one. Geoff gave the baker the money and took one of the cakes from Ray. They said their goodbyes and left the shop.

            Geoff turned to Ray. "Dude, I'm tired. Let's go sit somewhere."

            "Alright old man, let's go to the park." Ray said. Geoff rolled his eyes.

            "I'm not that old." Geoff said. Ray shrugged.

            "You're older than me. And you creak sometimes."

            "Yeah, but you would too if you were my age." Ray smiled. "Wait, shit!"

            Ray laughed. "You fucked up." They turned into the park and sat down on the nearest bench. They were silent for a few minutes while Geoff fumed and they ate their cakes. Ray swallowed the last bite of his and turned to Geoff. "Something is bothering me." Geoff grunted through a mouthful of cake. "Have you noticed Ryan acting weird at all?"

            Geoff swallowed and shook his head. "He's been acting pretty normal to me."

            "Exactly! He's acting too normal! What the fuck is up with that? I thought that he would be a fucking freak when he became King again, but he's not doing anything out of the ordinary! I hate it. He's creeping me out."

            Geoff leaned back. "Ah, I wouldn't worry about it. He's probably just being normal for a while. He'll be crazy again soon, don't you worry."

            "I hope so. It makes me feel like he's planning something."

            "Why?"

            "Because the last time we didn't expect something-" Geoff cut Ray off.

            "Right. I don't even know why I asked." Ray didn't respond. "Anything else on your mind?"  Ray shook his head.

            "Not really. I mean, I'm still worried about Michael, of course. But like you said, I gotta give that a break."

            Geoff nodded. "Michael's a grown man. He can handle it."

            "He's a grown man that just lost his best friend. No one can handle that. Speaking of which, you seem to be handling it pretty well."

            Geoff looked like he had just been punched in the face. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Just because I'm not mute, or crying my eyes out, and I'm smiling, that automatically means that I'm not grieving? Who the fuck do you think you are Narvaez? Gavin was like a son to me, and now he's fucking gone, and I'm never gonna see him again! So don't even fucking dare tell me that I'm not broken about it." Ray stared at Geoff.

            "That's not what I meant! I just meant that you seem to have a pretty efficient method of coping. I'm sorry." Ray said, standing up. "I'll leave you alone. Neither of us need to be socializing right now."

            Geoff sat on the park bench, head in his hands. He was never going to see Gavin again. His fucking adopted son. Gone. Forever. Geoff began to cry. "Fuck!" Geoff yelled. People walking by were starting to stare. They couldn't see him like this. He had to be strong for the people. He took out his repaired helmet and put it on, and then he stood up and hurried back to the castle.

 

            Geoff entered the dining room and slammed the door behind him. Jack was sitting at the table, and he stood when he noticed that Geoff was crying.

            “Geoff, are you okay?”

            “I’m fine! I’m just upset.”

            “That doesn’t sound fine to me.” Jack walked over to Geoff with two chairs. He sat in one and motioned for Geoff to sit in the other. “I don’t even have to guess that this is about Gavin.”

            Geoff sighed. “No, I guess you don’t.”

            “Do you want to talk about it?” Jack said, but it didn’t sound as much like a question as it did a command. Nevertheless, Geoff shook his head.

            “We've already talked about it.”

            “We talked about Michael. Not you.”

            “Well I’m in the same boat as him!”

            “No one is in the same boat as Michael.”

            Geoff stood up, flustered. “Why does everyone keep saying things like that? I know that Michael is the worst out of all of us right now! He lost his best friend, but I lost my son!”

            “He wasn’t really your son.”

            Geoff sat back down. “I know.”

            “He wasn’t your responsibility. He made his own choices. You had no way-“

            “But he was my responsibility! You all are! And I failed!”

            “You didn't fail. We failed. We failed Gavin. We failed at being his friends. His family. You can’t blame yourself, if that’s what you’re doing.”

            Geoff looked at Jack. “I’m always going to blame myself. Because I’m the reason that we’re all here. I made this place, and I dragged you all in.”

            “And we couldn't be more grateful. No matter what happens. You know, I still can’t believe he’s gone myself. I always expect him to come screaming down the hall, Michael hot on his heels. But he won’t. So you aren’t alone.”

            Geoff smiled. “Thank you. You’re a good friend.”

            Jack smiled back. “No problem.” He watched Geoff get up and leave the room, and then he exhaled deeply. Holding back tears had been hard for that. He let them go now.

 

            Michael sat. He had been sitting for three weeks. He did nothing else, apart from the essentials. Ray would be there sometimes. Michael had no idea when he came or went. He was just there sometimes. He saw Ray’s mouth moving, but why should he listen? And since he heard nothing from Ray, he said nothing back. What was there to say? Nothing would undo what’s been done. Nothing left to do but sit. Of course he had tried to talk before, but all words failed him. So he resigned to silence. To not even trying. Sometimes he would find tears on his face when he couldn’t remember crying. Sometimes he would blink and day would turn to night. After a week Michael had decided that he was waiting. Yes, waiting for the words that could bring his friend back. He didn’t know when he would think of them, and he didn’t care. He would wait. He looked around. His room was darker. That meant it was almost time to sleep. He dreaded sleep. When he got it. It felt like drowning. And he could see the surface, and then he couldn’t. And then he could. It was agony. He tried to put off sleep as long as possible. He yawned deeply and realized that tonight would not be a night to resist. He laid on his bed and closed his eyes, preparing for the water.

            Michael opened his eyes, and he was met not with water, but a cave. A large cave, filled with lava on all sides, rivers of the stuff leading to the center, which had a large pillar constructed in it. Michael walked towards the pillar, and it seemed to grow larger as he approached. He realized that the pillar was not made of stone, as he had previously thought, but of glass. He had only seen the other side and mistaken it for the pillar. Michael reached the edge of a large sunken in pool of lava over which the pillar was suspended by a large iron chain. The pillar was massive, bigger than anything he had ever seen. As he looked around the cave, Michael saw movement in his peripheral. He looked to the middle of the pillar and noticed a shape for the first time. It sat on the ground, stirring slowly. Looking closer, Michael made out brown hair, and a green scarf. It was Gavin. Michael pounded on the wall of the pillar, trying to get Gavin’s attention, but Gavin only got up and began to walk around, oblivious to his surroundings. Michael pounded even harder, but Gavin still didn’t notice. Michael heard a metal clunk to his left. He looked and saw Geoff, standing next to a crank. Geoff looked sad. He grabbed the handle on the crank and began turning. The pillar shifted, and began to lower into the hole. The lava grew closer to the floor as it lowered. Michael, first confused, and now scared, slammed his fists into the glass, but Gavin still didn’t hear him. He looked to his left again. He had to stop Geoff from doing this. He started running, but Geoff got no closer. The glass of the pillar began to heat up. The floor touched lava. Now the walls were being submerged. Gavin stayed oblivious. Michael stopped running and focused on the pillar again. The walls were heating up. Gavin was going to die. Michael slammed his fists into the wall with all his strength, but there was still no result. The sound of the pillar shattering mingled with Michael’s screams as his eyes flew open.

            Geoff woke to the sound of Michael screaming. He flew out of bed, slipped into his boots, and bolted down the hall. Michael’s door was open when he got there, and no one else was around. He stepped inside. Chairs were in pieces, the bed was upside down, and swords lay broken in a pile on the rug. The window was open, letting in moonlight, the only light, and Michael was nowhere to be seen. Geoff went to inspect the swords. The door slammed shut behind him. He whipped around. Michael stood there, eyes full of rage, hand on the door. He locked it.

            Geoff stepped backwards. “Michael?”

            Michael began to advance on Geoff, and Geoff stumbled backwards. He spoke in a voice that was rough and strangled after weeks of not being used.

            “What. Did. You. Do?”

            He had found the words.

Chapter Text

            "What. Did. You. Do?"

            The words came crashing down on Geoff as he stumbled backwards, Michael walking towards him. The door was locked. Geoff searched for a way around Michael, but he found none. Michael spoke again.

            "What did you do to him?"

            Geoff continued to back away. "Michael, I don't know what you're talking about. And I don't think you do either."

            "I saw you. What did you do?"

            "I don't even know who you're talking about!"

            "Gavin. You did something to him." Michael was keeping his voice calm.

            Geoff felt his foot hit the wall. "I didn't do anything to hurt Gavin! I would never do anything to hurt him!"

            Michael leaned down and grabbed a chair leg. "Then explain what I saw in my dream."

            Geoff stopped, dumbfounded. "Dream?"

            "You killed him."

            "This is about a dream? Are you crazy?"

            "Tell me what you did to him. Right now."

            Geoff's back was against the wall. Michael kept advancing. "I didn't do anything! Put the leg down, and we'll talk."

            Michael shook his head. "I won't waste my breath if it's not helping him."

            "He can't be helped! He's dead!"

            "I don't care. You have to pay for what you did." Michael pulled the leg back. Geoff saw an opening. He dove around Michael and ran to the door. Michael turned, eyes wide. Geoff's hands fiddled with the lock. Michael started to move. The door unlocked and Geoff flung it open. He ran through and slammed the door behind him. Michael pounded on it as Geoff held the handle.

            "Ramsey! Open the door!"

            "Not until you come to your senses! And that's Geoff to you!"

            "I swear, I will find out what you did to him! And then there will be hell to pay!"

            "You are confined to your room until you decide to stop acting like a child!"

            Michael stopped. "You cannot keep me in here."

            Guards ran down the hall to Geoff. He motioned for one of them to hold the handle. "I have to. You're not in the right mind. Guards will be posted outside, and if you try to escape, they'll put you back in."

            "I'll get out, and I'll find out what you did."

            "I HAVEN'T DONE ANYTHING!" Geoff roared. The guards were startled by this outburst. "I am tired of your accusations! You will not leave until you realize how silly you're being." Jack, Ray, and Ryan ran down the hall together.

            "What's going on?" Ray asked.

            "Michael's talking."

            Michael yelled from the other side. "Ray, tell that traitor to let me out of here!"

            Ray looked at Geoff. "Are you keeping Michael in his room? And why did he call you a traitor?" Geoff began to speak, but Michael answered instead.

            "He did something to Gavin! And he won't let me find out what!"

            Geoff growled. "I didn't DO ANYTHING!" He slumped against the wall.

"Did you do something?" Ryan asked. As the King, it was his duty to know.

            Geoff pushed off the wall and brought himself face to face with Ryan. "What the fuck would I have done to Gavin?"

            Ryan stayed stoic. "You didn't say no."

            Geoff threw his hands in the air and yelled. He leaned against the wall again. Jack walked up to Michael's door.

            "Michael, are you in there?"

            There was no response. Geoff spoke from his position against the wall. "He said that he wouldn't waste his breath if he wasn't helping Gavin."

Jack leaned against the door. "Michael, you don't have to be like that." Still nothing. Jack put his hand on Geoff’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. We believe you.”

            Michael spoke again, calmer this time. “Geoff?”

            Geoff responded, wary. “Yeah?”

            “I just wanted to let you know that I will find out what you did to Gavin, and when I do, I’ll punish you accordingly! Got it?”

            The color drained from Geoff’s face. “It’s a good thing you won’t find anything then, huh?” Michael didn’t reply. “I didn’t need this. I’m too old.” Ray laughed. He was the only one that got the joke. Geoff glared at him. Six more guards arrived, and they were stationed outside Michael’s door along with the other two. Geoff bit his nails. They may not have enough guards. Michael was still silent.

            After it was clear that Michael was done for the night, Geoff retired to his room.


            The next morning, guards brought new furniture into Michael’s room, while making sure that he didn’t escape. Michael sat between two guards, frowning. Geoff had come to supervise, which made his situation all the more demeaning. He didn’t look at Michael, but he felt his eyes. They were trying to guilt him for nothing. And he was pretty sure it was nothing. Last night had been spent trying to remember anything that could have inadvertently hurt Gavin, but nothing had come to mind. Nothing specific, anyway.

            He left as soon as the job was done. The door shut behind him, and he sighed as he shook off guilt. He had to keep Michael in his room to keep him from doing anything irrational, because he knew that he would do something irrational. A thought popped into his head, and he walked down the hall in the direction of the throne room.

            When he walked in, Ryan was not on the throne, so he walked around it to the king’s chamber. He knocked before entering. Ryan was sitting at his desk, the crown sitting next to him. He looked up and put the paper he was reading to the side.

            “What do you need, Geoff?”

            Geoff cleared his throat. “Well, I was thinking. Since Michael has improved-“

            “Our definitions of improved are very different.”

            Geoff shrugged. “Nevertheless, I think that we should inform the public of his condition. It’s well known that they’re worried about him. Everyone loves Michael.”

            Ryan leaned back in the chair. “Do you want me to make a public announcement?”

            Geoff nodded. “Yes, if it’s not too much trouble, of course.”

            Ryan shook his head dismissively. “No, it’s no trouble at all. In fact, I have a couple other things that I’ve needed to inform the public of, so I’ll make a speech tomorrow.

            Geoff bowed. “Thank you.” He turned to leave.

            “Geoff.”

            Geoff turned back around. “Yes?”

            Ryan looked to be in deep thought. “Now is the time to tell me. Did you do anything to Gavin?”

            “No. Of course not. Are you really considering something Michael took from a dream?”

            “The world is a mysterious place, Geoff. I have to pursue all claims, no matter how ridiculous they may seem.”

            “Ryan, I swear. I did nothing to hurt Gavin. I would have never done anything to hurt Gavin.”

            Ryan analyzed Geoff’s expression. He didn’t appear to be lying. “Alright. I believe you. But you better hope that Michael comes around, because eventually he will escape.” Geoff nodded. He knew all too well that Michael was persistent once he set his mind to something.

            He put his hand on the handle of the door. “I hope he doesn’t tear the world apart looking for something that isn’t there.” He swung the door open and left. Ryan sighed deeply.

            “Me too.”

 

            The next day, Logo Square was bustling with the news that the King was going to make a speech, and all the shops were preparing for his arrival. A stage was being constructed. It wasn’t permanent, of course, but it was grand. Michael watched the preparations from his window. He had a good view of the square, and the square had a good view of his window. Before, on good days, Michael would watch the people in the square, and he would imagine what it would be like to be a citizen, instead of royalty. But now he had no envy for them. He couldn’t imagine envy, not at a time like this. He had a one-track mind. He wouldn’t be able to see Ryan, the stage was set up the wrong way, but he would surely hear him. Not that he would listen. He was thinking of escape. He couldn’t leave through his door, the guards would be there, and he couldn’t fight all of them, and he couldn’t climb out the window, he didn’t have a ladder or anything, and the fall would… Of course. Michael left the window and turned towards his new bed. He hadn’t slept in it yet. Gavin had explained to him some of the discrepancies of the Tower. He had explained that you could only be revived in the last bed that you had slept in, and if that bed was gone, the Tower put you where you came into the world. And he hadn’t slept in this one yet. The Tower had no reference point. He smiled. It was a very clever way to escape. Even in death, Gavin continued to help him. He would avenge him for sure. He went back to the window. Dark clouds were rolling in, a rare sight in Achievement City. It hardly ever rained, which was fine for the crops, because Ray had forgotten that plants needed both sunlight and water when he was creating them. So the ones here only needed sunlight. And that was just fine. Rain would be nice, Michael thought, but it would be a shame if the speech was canceled because of it. A cold wind blew into the room, and Michael shivered. He pulled the window shut.

            Ryan sat behind the stage, twiddling his thumbs. He wasn’t a fan of public speaking, but he was getting used to it. In his first reign, he had made a few announcements, but during his second one he hadn’t given the public a single word on the state of things. So he was nervous. Thunder rolled in the distance. Ryan groaned. Perfect. Now he had to hurry, as well as do a good job. Ray, who was standing nearby, walked over to Ryan.

            “So, how are you feeling? Feeling, I don’t know, nervous?”

            Ryan laughed. “Are you kidding? I’m not nervous, what, who do you think I am, some kind of… nervous… person?”

            Ray nodded. “Yes. You sound really nervous. In fact, this is the most out of sorts I think I’ve seen you since you started this reign. Which is strange indeed.”

            Ryan looked at Ray. Thunder rolled again, louder this time. “What are you saying?”

            Ray poked his finger into Ryan’s chest. Ryan looked bewildered. “I’m saying I’ve got my eye on you. You may be fooling everyone else with this normal act, but I know what you’re like. And this is always how you start.”

            Ryan suddenly looked less nervous. He grabbed Ray’s finger. “I am normal! I am completely normal! I have never been more in control of myself in my entire life! You’ve hurt me for thinking otherwise!” Ray only managed to get out a noise of surprise, and then he looked down, ashamed. “And you won’t be able to prove anything to the contrary.” Ray snapped up again, mouth agape. Ryan let his hand go. “If you will excuse me, I have a speech to give.” He pushed past Ray and headed towards the stage. Ray stared at him as he left.

            “What just happened?” He said to no one in particular. He followed Ryan.

            Ryan took a deep breath and pushed the curtain open. He was met with the cheers of his citizens. His heart skipped a beat. He walked up to the podium, and the crowd fell silent. He took another deep breath, put his hands firmly on the podium, and began to speak.

            “Hello, my fellow inhabitants of Achievement City. As you all know, we have suffered a terrible loss. Gavin Free, our dear friend, and co-leader, passed away three weeks ago. We have all felt a terrible amount of grief and sorrow, but no one has felt it more than Michael Jones. Michael has been mute since Gavin’s death, and now we are very happy to announce that he is both eating, and speaking.” Applause went up from the crowd. Geoff was right. Ryan waited until the applause died down, and then he continued. “However, he is currently in his quarters, because he is still not fit to leave. But rest assured that he is recovering, and we are trying to move past the death of a dear friend.” Murmurs went through the crowd, but Ryan ignored them. “Now then, I have a few more announcements to make. First off, I would like to address the issue of the beef shortage. More hunting parties are being sent out every day, and we are doing are best to find enough cows to feed the population. Secondly, we have received numerous complaints regarding the cake wall in Lord Ray’s house. To whomever thinks that it is an entertaining prank to activate the wall on unsuspecting elderly citizens, I am going to tell you that it will not be tolerated, and guards will be posted outside to catch any ruffian that decides to-“ Ryan was interrupted by a scream from the crowd. A woman was pointing at the castle, horrified. Ryan spoke over the crowd. “Miss, what is it? What did you see?”

            The woman was panicking. “Something fell from one of the open windows! It looked like a person!” Geoff took the stage.

            “Which window was it?”

            “The fourth one from the left, fourth floor!”

            Geoff’s eyes grew wide and he spun to face the guards nearby. “Follow me! Now!” He ran off the stage towards the castle. Ryan spoke over the panicking crowd.

            “There is no need to be alarmed! If you all will just return to your homes for the time being, a list of further announcements will be posted around town. Thank you.” The crowd began to disperse as rain began to fall. Ryan pulled his cloak over his head and followed Ray and Jack off stage.

 

            Geoff kicked the door open. The room was empty again, but this time, in perfect condition. The window shutters were slamming against the wall with the wind, and Geoff moved to close them. He turned towards the bed. It hadn’t even been used. Geoff turned and swung his leg at a chair, and it flew across the room. The guards stiffened. He began to bark orders at them.

            “You four, come with me to the Spawn Point. You two, go see Jack, and tell him what’s happened. You four, stay here in case Michael comes back somehow.” The guards saluted and the appointed guards followed Geoff out of the room.

 

            Michael’s eyes flew open as he woke up in the Spawn Point. Rain was pouring down outside the awning, turning the dirt to mud. No one was around, and lightning flashed outside. He smiled. His theory was correct. He just hoped no one had seen him. He could faintly recall a scream right before he hit the ground, but he couldn’t be sure. He got to his feet, and he looked around. What was his next move? He had to disguise himself somehow, anyone in town would recognize him. He could go to the Wilds, maybe steal some clothes from a farmer or something. He would return them, of course. But how would he disguise his face? There was no way that clothes alone could hide him. For some reason, he thought back to one of his favorite stories as a child. A princess had been in danger, and so she had to disguise herself as an assassin. He liked the hero of the story, but the princess was always just as interesting. She disguised herself by putting a scarf over her mouth. He supposed he could do the same. The sound of clanking armor interrupted his thoughts. He looked around for a place to hide. Behind him, the Wilds extended into the distance. The sound grew closer, and Michael heard a familiar voice. It was Geoff, urging the guards to keep up. Michael turned and ran into the forest. He ran, and he ran, and he ran. Behind him, he could make out Geoff telling the guards to search the forest, the town, everywhere. Michael smiled as he ran through the rain. Geoff wouldn’t find him until he was ready to be found. He ran for another mile before he came to a large barn. It was a little cliché, but it would do. He ran inside and threw himself into the large pile of hay. A horse came over and inspected him, but he pushed it away. He fell into a restless sleep.

           

 

            Jeremy tried to force the door of the storage room open. Boxes and piles of ingredients pushed against the door, but he managed to get it open enough so that he, Gavin, Kdin, and Lindsay could slip inside. They looked around, not knowing where to start. This would be Gavin’s room for the time being, if they could clean it out. Jeremy hadn’t used anything stored in here in months, so he volunteered it when no one else could house Gavin. Kdin decided to start the cleaning process by scolding Jeremy.

            “Do you ever clean anything? Ever?”

            Jeremy scrunched up his face trying to remember. “Uh… no. I don’t think so. Everything has a place though.”

            Kdin rolled his eyes. “That’s something hoarders say.”

            “If I was a hoarder, I wouldn’t be letting you all get rid of this stuff, would I?”

            “All I’m saying is that you should take pride in your living space.”

            Lindsay stopped the conversation. “Let’s just get started, okay?”

            Kdin shrugged and opened a portal in midair. He leaned down, picked up a pile of what looked like spider eyes, and he threw them into the portal. Jeremy whimpered quietly. Kdin looked at him, but Jeremy hid any emotion. Gavin walked around the portal.

            “It’s like a giant garbage disposal! How does it work?”

            Kdin smiled. “Would you like me to teach you about theoretical physics, and the principals of wormholes?”

            Gavin blinked. “Wot?”

            “Never mind. Get to throwing.”

            They got to work, and within the hour about one fourth of the room was cleared out. Another few minutes revealed a window overlooking a cliff on the north side of the End. Jeremy threw the trash he was carrying into the portal and ran over to it.

            “I forgot this was here!” Some trash flew past the cliff into the void. Jeremy frowned. He grabbed a potted rose off the ground and threw it into the portal behind him, watching the window. An enderman standing near the cliff caught the pot on its way down. He looked at it for a second, and then he put it on his head and teleported away. Jeremy spun around. “Are you throwing my stuff into the void?”

            Kdin shrugged and threw more trash into the portal. “You haven’t used any of this stuff. You won’t even know it’s gone. Where did you think it was going?”

            “I don’t know, another room! You can’t just destroy my stuff!”

            “It’s not being destroyed! It’s just falling through infinite space. Never to be seen again.” Jeremy groaned. The next hour was agony for him as they finished emptying out the room. All that was left was a desk, a table, and some chairs. Kdin closed the portal and dusted off his hands.

            “Well, that’s the end of that.”

            Jeremy walked over to the door, looking miserable. “I’m gonna go work on a void immunity potion.” The door open and shut. It was just the three of them.

            Kdin clapped his hands together. “Okay Gavin, let’s talk.”

            “Wait, shouldn’t we get the bed in here?” Gavin said, apprehensive. Kdin snapped his fingers and a bed appeared in the corner. Gavin slouched. “Oh. Fine.” Lindsay locked the door and they sat around the table. Gavin looked at them nervously. “Is this about the story I told you?”

            Lindsay shook her head. “No, Gavin. It’s not about that.”

            Gavin exhaled, relieved. “Thank god.”

            “You aren’t in the clear just yet.” Kdin said. “We noticed something strange while you were bed ridden.”

            Gavin swallowed. “What? Is it something about my condition?”

            “No. You’re fine. But we started noticing it after you first woke up.”

            “Actually, I was the first one to notice.” Lindsay said. “I was sitting outside of your room the day you woke up. I’m sure you remember the conversation we had.” Gavin nodded. “Well, while I was sitting outside, I heard you kind of talking to someone. And then you started laughing. A lot. It was really creepy, actually.” Gavin bit his lip.

            “So?”

            “So, when I went into your room, no one was there, and you were out cold, asleep.”

            Gavin shrugged. “I must have been a little tired, you know? That’s what happens, I guess.”

            Kdin crossed his arms and leaned back. “What about all those other times?”

            “Wot other times?”

            “You would talk to no one all the time. You would stop when we would come inside your room though.”

            Lindsay put her hand on Gavin’s shoulder. “Are you okay?” Gavin pulled away.

            “I’m fine! I haven’t been bloody talking to anyone! I think out loud is all!”

            Kdin and Lindsay exchanged looks. Gavin grumbled and looked around his new room. Kdin winked at Lindsay and flicked his head towards Gavin.

            “Okay Gavin.” Gavin looked at them again. “If you say you aren’t talking to anyone, you aren’t talking to anyone. I mean, who talks out loud like there really is someone there?” Gavin laughed nervously. Kdin stood up, and motioned for Lindsay to do the same. “We’ll get out of your hair and let you get settled.” Gavin watched them leave. He waited until the door closed, and then he ran over and put his ear against it, which he had trouble doing with his arrow. Footsteps trailed away. They were gone. Gavin walked over to the window. An enderman with a flower pot on his head was being followed by other endermen. It seemed that he was the king now. Gavin smiled. But that reminded him.

            “Trickster?”

            “Yes?”

            Gavin sighed. He had never tried that before. “Should I tell them about you?”

            “No. They would not understand. They would think you mad. I must remain a secret, for now.”

            “Who are you, exactly?”

            “Excuse me?”

            “You never told me.”

            “I know what you know. And you think that I am you. Is that not irony?”

            “Are you even a real person?”

            Silence. “I believe so. I do not feel like imagination.”

            “If you weren’t real, you wouldn’t know it.”

            “Yes, of course not. That makes sense.”

            “You sound like me. But, deeper. Why? Explain that.”

            “I do not know. I am as perplexed by our situation as you are.”

            “This could all be in my head. I could be insane, hearing voices.”

            “Hearing voices is not all you have done.”

            “Yes, but you were there. You advised me to it.”

            “I did not force you.”

            “No. No, I suppose you didn’t.” Gavin sat down on his bed. “How did I see you that night?”

            “I cannot recall. I remember nothing before that.”

            “So I am crazy. I just snapped then.”

            “You are grasping at straws, Fool.”

            Gavin cringed when he heard the title. “You know very well that Fool is not my name. My name is Gavin.”

            Silence again. “I’m sorry, what did you say your name was?”

            “Gavin. How do you not know this?”

            “I am very sorry, Fool, I still didn’t hear you.”

            Gavin sighed. “Never mind. Just keep calling me Fool, I guess.”

            “Very well. These new friends are quite hospitable.”

            Gavin laid his head back onto his pillow. “Yeah. But I miss the guys.”

            “I don’t. I’ve seen what they did to you. You did not deserve it.”

            “Have you been in my memories or something?”

            “Yes. But there seems to be nothing before your first encounter with the Maker.”

            “That’s because I don’t remember anything before that except for my name. And what is with these titles? His name is Geoff.”

            “What was his name?”

            “Bloody hell. Never mind. Again.”

            “Of course.”

            “Now, go away. I need to sleep.”

            “Farewell.”

            Gavin drifted off into uneasy sleep.

 

            The next morning, Gavin woke to the five of them standing over his bed, grim looks on their faces. He didn’t know what to think. He was startled, that was for sure. He sat up. “What is this about?”

            Kdin frowned. “We need to talk.”

            Gavin swallowed. “Right.”

            He got out of his bed and followed them outside and towards Kdin’s house. The enderman with a flowerpot as a crown followed their procession with interest. Gavin turned as he walked and smiled in the direction of the enderman, being careful not to look directly at him.

            Kdin spoke without turning his head. “The endermen here won’t attack you unless I tell them to. Just so you know.” Gavin made eye contact with the enderman. He had never done that before. He had never realized how much an enderman’s eyes glowed. He smiled nervously, and he thought for a second that the corners of the enderman’s mouth upturned slightly. Maybe there was more to these creatures than they thought. He would have pondered this further if they had not reached Kdin’s front door at that moment. Gavin waved good bye to the king as he walked inside. The enderman stared for a second, and then he raised his long thin arm and moved it left to right. Then he teleported away.

            Inside the house, they turned a corner into a large room with a table with six chairs. It resembled a dining room, but it hadn’t been used in a long time. One chair in particular seemed dustier than the others. Gavin sighed. He had forgotten. What a terrible thing for him to forget. Kerry had died that day in the maze, by Gavin’s sword. Though at the time Gavin thought that he was Edgar, due to his transformation into a Minotaur. He had banished Ryan for this. He realized he had no idea who the King was now.

            They sat around the table, Gavin at one head, and Kdin at the other. Kdin got right to the point.

            “So, you tried to kill them.”

            Gavin nodded. “Yes.”

            “Is there any specific reason?”

            “I’ve already told you.”

            “Tell us again.”

            Gavin sighed. “Alright. I tried to kill them because they tortured me.”

            “Physically?”

            “Sometimes. But it was mostly the insults. Constantly yelling at me. The bloody title. The job of “court jester.” I was sick of it.”

            “So you just decided the best course of action was to try to murder them?”

            “I didn’t decide at first. I had thought that once I became King, they would have shown some respect. But it became very obvious, very quickly, that they would not.”

            “And what thought process led you to murder?”

            “I isolated myself. In the throne room. Every day I would see Ryan’s stained glass, and I would remember how scared we all were. And then I started thinking. I realized that if they wouldn’t respect me because of my position, they would respect me out of fear. And then it twisted into a game. But it wasn’t just about fear. It was about revenge. It was my turn to torment them.”

            Kdin sighed in exasperation. “Was that the correct course of action, do you think?”

            Gavin looked at his hand, and his arrow. “Kind of.”

            “What do you mean, kind of?”

            “Some parts of it were good. But it got out of hand.”

            “Was torture one of the good parts?”

            Gavin looked up at Kdin. Kdin watched him with a superior expression. “What the fuck are you suggesting? That I think back to torturing Michael, and I give myself a high-fucking-five? Because I bloody don’t. I hate myself for it. At the time, I loved it. But now, I realize how wrong I was.”

            “Then what were the good parts?”

            Gavin searched his memory for a positive outcome. He found none. “I guess there wasn’t any. They think I’m dead. They probably hate me. I lost a hand and I have a bloody arrow stuck in my chest forever.” He gasped and looked up at them. “I’ve ruined everything.” Tears began streaming down his face. “It’s all my fault.”

            Kdin sighed. “Gavin, please, don’t cry.”

            “Kdin, have some compassion!” Lindsay exclaimed.

            “I’m sorry, Lindsay, but I was trying to have a professional conversation with the guy. And I can’t exactly do that when he’s sobbing.” Lindsay maintained a judgmental expression. Kdin groaned. “Fine.” He stood up and walked around the table to the crying Gavin. He stood there, staring, for a second. He didn’t know what to do. He put his hand on Gavin’s shoulder. “There, there.” Gavin seemed to calm a little. He began to cry quieter. Kdin was surprised. He was good at this compassion stuff. He walked back around the table and sat down again. Everyone was staring down the table at him. “What?” Caleb laughed.

            “No wonder you’re the ruler of all things void. There is nothing in there.”

            “In where?”

            Jeremy was reeling with laughter from Caleb’s comment. “Dude, he means your heart.”

            Kdin was instantly offended. “I have a heart!”

            Matt was laughing too. “Oh, really?”

            “Yeah, I just comforted Gavin!”

            “I wouldn’t exactly call that comfort.” Lindsay muttered.

            “Oh, not you too.”

            Lindsay shrugged and smiled sheepishly.

            Kdin put his hands on the table and stood up. “Alright, I am DONE with this conversation. We are not here to talk about me, we are here to talk about Gavin.” Everyone was staring at him. The door to the dining room slammed shut. They looked at Gavin’s seat. He was gone.

            Matt started to rush out, but Kdin appeared in front of him.

            “Let him go.”

            “Wait, really?”

            “Yes, really. I know what it feels like when you need to be alone. If he needs to be alone, or he doesn’t want to talk, I won’t force him to do anything to the contrary.”

            Matt stepped back. They had never seen this side of Kdin before. It was usually hard comments and sarcastic remarks with him. This was different.

           

            Outside, Gavin looked for a place to go. There were only cliffs, and pillars. And the few houses of the inhabitants.

            He stumbled forward for a bit until he reached the tallest pillar in the place. He leaned up against it as best he could. He cried for a while.

            A squeaking noise approached his left, and a shadow fell over him. Gavin looked up. It was the king, with his potted plant crown. A number of endermen were behind him. The king turned and raised both his arms. He squeaked a couple times, and the crowd teleported away. He turned to look at Gavin again. Gavin didn’t know what to do. He cleared his throat. “So. You have a flower pot on your head. That’s… cool.”

            “Fool.”

            “Yes?”

            “I don’t think he understands you.”

            The enderman looked around, as if searching for something. He walked around the pillar, he even teleported to the top of the pillar. He looked perplexed when he didn’t find what he was looking for.

            Gavin cocked his head. “What are you looking for?”

            “Again, I do not believe he understands you.”

            The enderman leaned towards Gavin, holding the pot in place. His eyes narrowed. A thought came to Gavin. “Trickster, can you yell something?”

            “I suppose. Let’s see. Oh, yes.  MARK NUTT! Oh my, where did that come from?”

            The enderman let out a loud squeak and jumped back. He tapped Gavin’s head nervously and recoiled as if he was afraid that it would break. Gavin turned white as a sheet. “Oh my god.”

            The Trickster concurred. “Oh my…”

            “Can you hear him?” Gavin asked, pointing at his head. The enderman seemed to understand the gesture, and he nodded. Gavin’s mouth hung open. “You can… oh, wow. But, how? How can you hear him?”

            “Fool, he may be able to hear us, but that does not mean he understands us.”

            “Shut up. I’ll just mime to him, and hope he understands.” What followed in the next few minutes can only be described as pure jack-assery. Gavin flailed his arms in order to convey his questions to the king. The king only seemed to understand half the time, and even when he did understand, the only part of the answer they could go off of were nods and shakes of the head. None of the information they got was useful. It seemed that the enderman could hear the Trickster, but he was not clear sounding. And he could not, as a matter of fact, understand them. Gavin sighed. He had just woken up, but he was exhausted. This was a major breakthrough. But it would have to wait. He was so tired. He started to walk back to Jeremy’s house, leaving the king behind. Tomorrow, he thought. Tomorrow, he would make progress.

Chapter Text

            Due to the lack of sunlight in the End, Gavin had to rely on his own sleep schedule to wake up. Because of this, he had no idea what time it was when he finally pulled himself out of bed. He stretched, yawned, and did his push-ups and sit-ups like Caleb had told him to, which were done not without difficulty, because the arrow had a habit of being in the way. After that, since there was really nothing else to do, Gavin sat at his table, facing the window. There was nothing much to see, though. Which was a shame. In Gavin’s old room, he had a fantastic view of the ocean, and the beach. Sometimes he would see squid from his window, and pigs rolling in the wet sand. Gavin’s stomach began to hurt, and not just because he hadn’t eaten yet. He missed home. He missed the townspeople, and the blue skies, and the animals, and Jack, and Geoff, and Ray, and Michael. Hell, he even missed Ryan. Gavin had never been away from them this long, and with the current circumstances, it felt like he had been away from them for years. But at least he knew that there was a chance of seeing them again. They had no idea that he was still alive. They had no hope of seeing Gavin again. It wasn’t fair. There was no reason why he couldn’t just go back and end all of this.

     A letter slid under the door. Gavin opened the door and looked down the hallway. No one was there, so he picked up the letter and went back in.

            The letter was short, and very hard to read. It was almost illegible, and it didn’t help that it was written in some kind of shiny purple ink. It took him five minutes to make out all the words.

            “Gavin, if you would rather speak about your incident one on one, my door is always open. – Kdin.”

            Gavin bit his lip. Kdin? Weird. He would have thought that Lindsay would have been the one to be sensitive to his incident. Though why Kdin couldn’t have made this offer to his face instead of in a letter escaped him, he was glad that he was willing to talk. He looked around his bare bones room. He guessed that he could take Kdin up on his offer. Nothing better to do.

            As Gavin walked down the hallway of Kdin’s house towards the study, voices floated out from the doorway of his destination.

            “-fine. Yeah, he’s settling in.”

            That was Kdin, but he couldn’t make out the voice of who he was talking to. He pressed himself against the doorframe.

            “Yes, I understand that you want him to stay as long as possible.” What? “Of course not. But if he really wants to leave, we won’t be able to stop him forever.” Gavin still couldn’t make out what the other person was saying. The voice sounded relatively male, though. “The deal was that we bring him back, and bring him here. Not to keep him. No, we understand why he needs to stay. We’re going to try our best. No, he doesn’t know anything. And it is going to stay that way.” Gavin swore silently. “You’re right, he wouldn’t understand, which is why Lindsay has a story going.” Lindsay? “That is what he claims. Though I have to say, I don’t believe him completely. Well, it’s just that… that stuff doesn’t just go away, even if it seems like it has. With all due respect, I think I know what I’m talking about. Well, if you aren’t paying me to be a smart-ass, then what are you paying me for? Yeah, goodbye.”

            Gavin crept away from the door as silently as he could. He waited long enough so that Kdin wouldn’t think that he had heard anything, and then he stood up and walked into the room like nothing was wrong. Kdin was facing the window, in deep thought. Gavin cleared his throat. Kdin jumped and turned around.

            “Gavin! I didn’t expect to see you so soon. You scared the shit out of me. Have a seat, I guess.” Gavin sat down in the seat opposite Kdin. The desk separating them was very organized, and there didn’t seem to be a thing out of place. Gavin noted that Kdin looked uncomfortable. He decided to initiate the conversation.

            “Where do you want to start then?”

            Kdin leaned forward and began to leaf through a stack of papers. “Yeah, it’s right here, I just need to find it.” He went through the whole stack before he found what he was looking for. It was an ancient piece of paper, looking to be thousands of years old, stained with blood and other unidentifiable liquids. Kdin handed it to Gavin daintily. “It’s a little fragile.”

            Gavin took it with as much care as he could. The first passage was the easiest to understand.

            “The spell that was cast upon this artifact is a wondrous thing indeed. There is no end to the life it gives and we are fortunate that I stumbled upon this invention. If those in my homeland could see the grandeur that I have achieved, and my denial of death, they would surely at last cower and know that I am the ruler of life and death. They would worship me as a king, nay, as a god! My powers grow in strength each time one of my companions perishes and returns. Surely we are immortal! There is no one who would dare to challenge us, nor would they be able to steal our trophy. We have cut a swath of conquest and death through the land, and we have almost reached the ocean. Soon we will begin crossing the sea to lands beyond. My comrades and I have done this without an army, and word of our conquest has spread to the rest of the world. We bring prosperity to those we conquer, and we kill those who resist our domination. There is talk of a treaty of peace between us and the remaining kingdoms, but what treaty is needed when you can take by force? A treaty is weakness. A treaty is defeat. A treaty is death. We will continue with swords and armor. Those who travel with me are willing to continue with gusto, and I am happy to comply. But no one may know the secret we hold. I am writing this now as a record of the beginnings of what is to be my eternal kingdom. Our eternal kingdom. This will be on my person at all times. When we have conquered the world, and none can think to resist, I will deliver this letter to the people. And they will know that our rule is eternal, and their children, and their children’s children, and all generations to come will be ruled by the ones who conquered their ancestors. We are starting research on the artifact to unlock its secrets, and any findings will be kept in a safe place, never to be given to the world. We alone are the holders of this power, and we alone will use it as we please.”

            The next passage was nothing but gibberish, full of words that Gavin had never seen before, talking about kingdoms that he had never heard of. A name is never mentioned. Obviously the writer assumed that anyone that read this letter would know who had written it. Gavin set the letter down carefully. Kdin was watching him with interest. “What?” Gavin asked.

            “Do you recognize what this man is talking about?”

            Gavin nodded. “It sounds like the Tower. But what is he talking about with a great empire? I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

            Kdin sighed. “That’s the problem with the society you all created. You know nothing about the people that came before you.”

            “We were the first ones.”

            “No, you weren’t. There were, and are, people greater than you. You have no lore. You know exactly what led to the creation of your world, because it happened six years ago. There are more powerful kingdoms in ancient worlds, and you all have no idea. Contact between worlds has never occurred. And it never will.”

            Gavin was having trouble wrapping his head around the whole idea. “Are you saying that there are other worlds out there?”

            “Yes. Not infinite, but there are many worlds that are inhabited by many people, filled with magic, and kingdoms, and life. The most powerful of them all is one of the oldest lands.”

            “But how are they created?”

            “Naturally. There are random sparks of magic in the void, and sometimes they catch, becoming the components for life and order.”

            “Then how did Geoff make ours?”

            Kdin paused. “We don’t know. His powers are a mystery to me, and Lindsay. How he split them up is just as unknown. You wouldn’t happen to know how he got them.”

            Gavin shook his head. “He would never tell me. Said it wasn’t important. He said that he had them, and that was all that really mattered about the whole thing.”

            Kdin frowned. “Strange…” A look came onto his face, one Gavin couldn’t read. “Gavin, how did you know how to build the Tower?”

            Gavin shrugged. “I thought it up.”

            Kdin smiled. “You thought of the Tower all by yourself? Just thought it up one day?”

            Gavin hesitated. “Actually, no. Geoff said something, I think. He said that he wished there was a way for us to be protected from the world. Like a spell, he said.”

            “But how did you think of it?”

            Gavin closed one eye. “How old is that letter, again?”

            Kdin tapped his finger on the desk. “Judging from the age of the paper, really, really, really old.”

            “Spooky.”

            “That two people living thousands of years apart would stumble upon the same amazing discovery? That is not spooky. That’s straight up freaky. Though I suppose you could have just gotten lucky.”

            Gavin pushed this comment aside in favor of another question. “Where did you find this thing, anyway?”

            “Ruins.” Kdin said dismissively.

            “Like in the End?”

            Kdin rolled his eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous. We found it in an uninhabited world.”

            “Were you exploring with that dragon thing you do?”

            “For a little bit. Why?”

            “They were probably bloody hiding.”

            “No, there wasn’t a single living thing in the entire world. And it looked like there hadn’t been for a while.”

            “Did you find anything else?”

            Kdin shook his head. “We weren’t able to explore for long.”

            “Why not?”

            Kdin smiled grimly. “Ryan showed up on Lindsay’s doorstep. We had to rush back to give him medical attention. Caleb was with us, and by us I mean Matt and Jeremy. Lindsay was watching the games to see how far Ryan would go.” Gavin winced.

            “Did she see-“

            “Yes.”

            Gavin ran his fingers through his hair. “And I haven’t even bloody apologized.”

            “You can do that later, okay? For now, let’s just focus on the implications of this letter.”

            “Wait a minute!” Kdin stopped. “I thought you said I just got lucky.”

            “Well, now I don't know.”

            “I thought you guys knew everything.”

            Kdin was getting annoyed. “No one knows everything.” Then he smiled suddenly. “Speaking of knowing things. How would you like to go on a little adventure?”

            Gavin perked up. “You mean like exploring those ruins?”

            Kdin nodded. “Obviously we need to go back. There is a high possibility that we could find more, and since this guy talks about research, maybe there’s a chance they found out what makes this spell work.”

            Suddenly, the door burst open, and Jeremy and Matt rolled through action hero style. Jeremy did a back handspring and landed next to Gavin. Kdin poofed in a card with a big number ten, looking disinterested, and then he made it burst into flames. Gavin clapped a couple times. Matt jumped onto Jeremy’s shoulders and pretended to be looking through a telescope. “DID SOMEONE SAY ADVENTURE?” Matt yelled in a dramatic voice.

            “Yes,” Kdin said. “Like, a minute ago.”

            “Well, we had to plan it out, you know?” Jeremy said, trying to keep his balance with Matt on his shoulders. “Dude, how much do you fucking weigh?”

            Matt began to flail his arms as they began to teeter. “You know- shit- that I’m- oh, fuck- sensitive about my weight!”

            “I can see why!” Jeremy said, throwing Matt onto the floor behind him. He turned and held out his hand. “Just kidding man, you’re fine.”

            Kdin cleared his throat. Jeremy and Matt started paying attention. “So you guys are going to join us?”

            “Hell yeah we are!” Jeremy slapped his hand onto Gavin’s shoulder. “It’ll give us a chance to hang with Gavin!”

            Gavin smiled. “I’m fine with that.”

            Kdin sighed. “I don’t think we had much of a choice anyway, Gavin.” He squinted. “I would tell you to go pack, but you’re already wearing everything you have.”

            Gavin nodded. “I’ll go... mentally prepare myself? Yeah, I’ll do that.” Kdin shrugged, and Gavin stood up and left the room.

            Walking down the hallway, Gavin let out all the anxiety he had been holding in. He hoped that Kdin didn’t know that he had overheard his conversation. How would he deal with this? He couldn’t just leave, Kdin would do some teleportation bullshit, and he couldn’t confront anyone, because they would just deny it. He didn’t even know how to get back, he realized. He would have to wait. There was a lot of new information for him to process. Lindsay turned the corner in front of him. She was holding a piece of paper, and there were tears in her eyes. She grew more distressed when she saw Gavin. She walked up to him.

            “Gavin, something’s happened.”

            A feeling of dread began to grow in Gavin’s chest. “What is it?”

            “It’s Michael.” The dread grew larger. “He’s missing. He ran away last night, and they’ve spent all day trying to find him but… Geoff said that he wasn’t thinking straight, and you know Michael.”

            “Well, I’m sure they’ll find him! Did they check everywhere?”

            “Yes, everywhere in the city, at least. They’re sending more search parties out later today, but no one has seen him in the Wilds.” She started to cry again.

            “Lindsay, I’ve never seen you like this!” Lindsay frowned, and Gavin knew that that wasn’t the right thing to say. “Wh-what I mean is, it’s not like he’s dead, right? He’s still alive. And he can take care of himself!”

            “He’s my husband. He’s missing. I’m going to be fucking worried. He’s not in his right mind! He was saying something about Geoff doing something to hurt you before he disappeared, and Geoff thinks he’s gone to find out what he thinks he did. But Geoff swears he didn’t do anything, and he’s never lied to us before, and Michael won’t let anyone get in his way when he’s on a mission, you know that, what if he hurts someone? Gavin, he’s not well. You should be worried, too.”

            “I am worried! But they’ll find him, or he’ll come to his senses. If he dies, the Tower still works, right?”

            “I suppose.” She dropped the letter on the hall table.

            Gavin didn’t know what else to do to make Lindsay feel better. He knew what made him feel better. He could try that. “Hug, maybe?” Lindsay shrugged. It was quick, but they hugged. Lindsay picked up the letter and took a deep breath.

            “I guess I better go tell Kdin what’s happened.”

            “I suppose you should.”

            “See ya.”

            “Bye.”

            They hurried past each other, uncertain of what would happen if Michael wasn’t found.

 

            The sound of boots brought Michael out of his light sleep. At first, looking around, he was confused. Then he remembered where he was, and what he was doing, and he took action to hide from the wearer of the boots. It was still dark outside, but the rain had stopped. A red glow, more than likely a torch, was growing closer. The barn was pretty bare, and there weren't very many places to hide. The pile that Michael had slept on was relatively tall, so he ran behind it as quickly as he could. The carrier of the torch rounded the corner. Michael was surprised to see not a large farmer like he had been expecting, but a kid that looked about fifteen . The kid swung the torch around, scanning the barn. “Hello? Is there anyone there?” He called out to the seemingly empty barn. Michael weighed the options in his head. He could stay where he was, and risk being caught, he could sneak out, or he could overpower the kid and steal his clothes for a disguise. It would save time for him if he didn't need to worry about a disguise later. And the kid could recover from a bump on the head. And staying behind this pile of hay would be no good if the kid began to look more thoroughly. Stealing from the kid seemed to be the most efficient option. Michael took a deep breath and slowly crept to his feet, being careful not to disturb any hay, while the kid moved further into the barn. He had learned how to step lightly, though he wasn't very good at it. Ray was much better at not being heard. Michael avoided the hay scattered on the floor as he got closer. He lifted his arm for the knockout blow, and as he fully pulled back, the kid shrugged and spun around. This movement brought the torch inches from Michael’s face. Michael froze and inhaled sharply. Laughter echoed in his mind, and the heat of the torch caused Michael to break a sweat. He couldn't move. He couldn’t take his eyes off the torch. He was afraid of it. He was so fucking afraid of it. The kid stared at the wide-eyed stranger who had his hand raised, noticing the look of pure terror he was giving the torch. “Are you okay?” He asked. Michael couldn’t respond. He just started to breathe quicker, almost involuntarily. Finally, he was able to choke out “g-get it away” and the kid drew the torch back. There was a bucket of water nearby, so he extinguished the flame in it. Michael was able to relax enough to fall backwards onto his ass, still shaking as images of flames and sounds of laughter flickered through his mind. He knew exactly why that had happened. He couldn't control himself. It was going to burn him. He knew it was. Had he really never been near fire since then? The kid shook him out of his stupor. “Are you okay?”

            Michael replied cautiously. “I’m fine.”

            “Why are you sleeping here?”

            “That's none of your business.” Michael snapped.

            The kid crossed his arms. “Actually, you're in my barn, so yes, it is my business. Or, I could just report you to the guards for trespassing.”

            “No, wait! That won't be necessary. I just needed a place to stay for the night.”

            The kid held out his hand and helped Michael to his feet. “You could have just knocked on my door. What's your name?”

            Michael punched himself in his mind. He had forgotten a fake name. “Uh, it's…” Michael sighed. “It’s Flynt.”

            “Flynt Coal?”

            “NO!” The kid recoiled in surprise. “Sorry. I get that a lot. I’m a different Flynt.” Michael wondered how the kid didn’t know who he was. Michael had made more public appearances than he had hairs on his head, so it was a wonder that the kid didn't recognize him.

            “Well,” the kid said as he held out his hand for a handshake. “I’m Roy.” Michael noticed how skinny Roy’s arm was. “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Flynt.”

            “And I you.”

            Roy looked around the now dark barn. A cold breeze blew through the open door. “Would you like to maybe sleep in a real house?”

            Michael laughed in spite of himself. He was in a very different position than he was yesterday. It seemed that his wish of seeing how the citizens lived would finally come true. Roy was still waiting for an answer. “Yes, yeah, that sounds fine.”

            Roy nodded and they walked out of the barn, burnt out torch and all. Navigating in the moonless night seemed to be no problem for Roy, and soon they were in the door of a small one room house. Michael looked around. There was a small wooden table with two chairs, two beds on either side of the small space, one if which was made with the utmost care, another with downturned sheets, and a fireplace, which currently had a small fire inside it, lending the space just enough light and heat. Michael was wary that it would flare up at any moment. He had seen it before. He was able to pull his thoughts away from the fire to notice that something was missing.

            “Where are your parents?”

            Roy kicked the ground absentmindedly. “Oh, um, well, my mom died when I was young, in a mining accident.”

            “I’m sorry.”

            “Why? I can't really remember her, so I’m not sensitive about it.”

            There was an awkward lull. Michael continued his line of inquiry. “Alright then. Where is your dad?”

            Roy sat in the chair at the table, and the legs creaked, even though Roy was decidedly scrawny. “I don't know. He might be dead.”

            Michael sat in the other chair, and it almost gave way. “What do you mean he might be dead?”

            Roy shrugged, refusing to make eye contact. “They haven't found him yet. Money was tight, and even though he is, or was, a farmer, he volunteered to hunt for some extra cash. One day he went out, and he hasn’t come back yet.”

            Michael vaguely remembered something about a missing hunting party. “How long has he been gone?”

            Michael could see the gears turning in Roy’s head as he drew numbers in the air. “I think about two months?”

            Michael’s jaw dropped. “Two months? Why are you still living here? How are you still living here?”

            Roy leaned the chair back onto two legs. “What if he comes back and I’m not here? And anyways, I have plenty of food.”

            Michael took stock of how thin Roy was. “Are you sure? I don’t see any meat in this shack, and I didn't see any fields yesterday.”

            Roy smiled mischievously. “I’ll show you tomorrow. Gonna blow your mind.”

            Michael laughed nervously. “Okay then. But I have another question. Why did you invite a stranger into your house?”

            “Well, are you going to hurt me?”

            “No.”

            “Well then there’s no harm done. Plus if you're homeless the least I could do was help.”

            Michael frowned. “I’m not completely homeless.”

            Roy waved him off. “Whatever man. You were just in my barn.” He yawned deeply. “Well, I’m gonna turn in.”

            Michael looked around. “Wait, where do I sleep?”

            Roy gestured past Michael. “You can use my dad’s bed.”

            Michael frowned. “Are you sure?”

            “Yeah, he won’t mind. Though that is how he left it…” Roy trailed off. “Anyways!” He continued, suddenly. “You sleep there. I sleep here. You don’t bother me. I don’t bother you. Everyone wins.” He snatched up the bucket of water that was sitting next to the fireplace and put out the fire. Michael felt more at ease, even as a slight chill invaded the room. The floorboards creaked as Roy moved to his bed. Michael did the same. The mattress was better than a pile of hay, and the blankets were warmer. Michael slept the rest of the night in peace.

 

           The four remaining men had been up all night. Ryan had stayed back at the castle to manage any reports of Michael’s whereabouts. Jack, Ray, and Geoff took parties of guards to search every single inch of the city. Every alleyway, every monument, and every building was searched. They found no sign of him. As there was a chance that Michael had fled into the Wilds, and the Wilds were overtly dangerous at night, the knights decided in spite of their best interests to wait until the daytime to search the woods. Jack had commissioned a missing poster as soon as the news of Michael’s disappearance reached him, and they would be posted on every door, city and Wilds alike. The poster stated that Michael was not to be approached if sighted, but instead reported to the guard. Information about his mental state was limited to the words “irrational and violent” and a relatively accurate drawing was drawn underneath in case anyone needed confirmation of what they thought was a sighting of Michael. As the sun rose, Geoff and Ray entered the dining room as Jack went off to check on the progress of his posters. They sat at the table for a moment, exhausted. Their clothes were still soaked from last night’s  rain. A servant came in with hot coffee for Ray, and vodka for Geoff. Geoff dismissed him, and then pounded the bottle of alcohol. Ray just stared at the steam rising from the coffee. They were both thinking the same thing. This was too fucking much. When did this start falling apart? They both saw their world crumbling around them. Gavin’s death was the breaking point. But it hadn't broken anything. Nothing had been there to break. Except for the hole that Ryan had left. But that was a just punishment. As if hearing their thoughts, Ryan walked through the door to the dining room, an air of urgent authority in his posture and stride.  He stared at the two men at the table for a moment, while the door slowly swung itself shut behind him. Ryan’s eyes were tired, and his forehead was creased from a night of worry. The door behind him swung into its frame. In a split second, Ryan grabbed a knife off of the table and flung it across the room with a yell, sticking it into the wall. Ray and Geoff crept out from where they had taken cover under the table. Ryan had his calm eyes again. He cleared his throat. “I’m very sorry about that. This has been a very stressful night.” He collapsed into a chair. Ray and Geoff exchanged nervous glances. His head swung towards them, too exhausted to turn itself. “Any luck?”

            Ray shook his head. “Absolutely nothing. No one in town has seen him.”

            Geoff interjected. “We weren't expecting to find anything, as you may remember.”

            Ryan nodded. His eyes were barely staying open. “Do we have any idea where he might have gone?”

            Geoff responded in the same exhausted fashion. “I don't fucking know. Any places that him and Gavin spent time at are in the city, and we searched them.”

            Ray took a sip of his coffee. “Didn't you say he said something about a dream? Maybe he's going to a dream interpreter or something. Or like, a fortune teller. Fuck, I don’t know.”

            “I only know of one fortune teller in town.” Geoff said. He turned to Ryan. “Do you know about anymore?”

            Ryan shook his head. “Not in the city. There could be some crazy hermit fortune teller in the Wilds though.”

            Geoff nodded. “We’ll search the Wilds as soon as I get some fucking sleep.” Jack walked in, carrying a large stack of posters. Five servants followed behind him, carrying stacks of the same size. He put them down on the table. They looked good. The servants left their lords to their talks. Jack remained positive despite being just as exhausted as everyone else. “Hey fellas! Here are the posters! The artist did a really good job, as you can see. If we don't find Michael with these, I don’t know what we’ll do! So how should we spread them?”

            Ray snorted. “We could throw them out the window. Let the wind spread them.”

            Jack smiled. “Good idea Ray! Very efficient. But maybe not the best way to tell the people outside of the city.” Ray shook his head at Jack’s blind optimism. Jack continued with his own idea. “I was thinking that we could nail these posters to people's doors so we know that they’ll see them, and we can do it while we're searching the Wilds.”

            Ryan decided to end this conversation before it got too complex. “We’ll do that. But now, all of you need to get some sleep. As your King, I command you. I’m going to write a message to Lindsay.” Jack and Geoff complied. Ray stayed back, still drinking his coffee. “Ray, are you going to bed?”

            “What were you doing while we were out looking?”

            Ryan rolled his eyes. “I was making sure that any sightings of Michael were reported.”

            “Were there any?”

            “No.”

            “So you just sat around?”

            “You're clearly implying something, so why don't you just say it.”

            “From what we just saw, you aren't all there. I assume you were scheming.”

            “What I was doing is none of your business. I'm trying to find Michael. That’s it. Now please, go to bed. For your own sake.”

            Ray stalked out of the room, coffee in hand. Ryan heard the cup shatter against the wall outside. He shook his head, and walked over to where the knife was stuck into the wall. He had already sent word to Lindsay. It was one of the first things he did once they found Michael missing. There was no way they would have found Michael in town, so he put that in the letter, and if they had found him, he could have just sent another letter. Ryan pulled the knife out of his wall. Ray didn't know what he was talking about. He had been very productive during the night, but he had had other business to attend to.

           

Chapter Text

            For the first time in three weeks, Gavin dreamed. But it wasn’t a dream like he’d ever had before. He was in a room, and that room only contained a window, a table, and two chairs. Gavin looked out the window, but all he saw was darkness. There was no door. Looking back out the window, Gavin heard a noise behind him. He turned to see a hooded figure sitting across the table from him. A voice came from the hood.

            “Fool.”

            Gavin’s eyes narrowed. “Trickster.”

            “There is no need to act in such a belligerent manner.” The Trickster said. He gestured to the opposite chair. “Please, sit.”

            Gavin looked at the chair. “No way.”

            “You are in my house.” The Trickster said, his voice growing deadly serious. “Sit. Down.”

            Gavin complied. He looked around. “What do you mean this is your house?”

            “Technically, we are in your mind. But this is the space I occupy. Therefore, this is my house.”

            Gavin frowned. “My mind? But, I’m dreaming. Why am I here?”

            The Trickster reclined slightly. “I brought you here. We need to talk.”

            “Why exactly did you bring me here instead of talking to me while I was awake?” Gavin said, still not willing to talk to this… parasite.

            “I need to show you something. And I cannot do that when I am but a voice.” The Trickster stood and walked to the window.

            “There isn’t much to show me here, is there?” Gavin asked, looking around the room once more. 

            “It’s nothing in the room.” The Trickster said, evasively. The hood shifted wildly.

            “Why are you wearing that ridiculous hood?” Gavin asked, standing. “Why won’t you show me what you look like?”

            The Trickster stiffened. “Because, Fool,” He turned and pulled down his hood. “I don’t remember.” The robe fell to the ground. Gavin gasped and stepped backwards, stumbling into the table. Instead of a normal face, the Trickster had a head that was a swirling vortex of facial features, as if it was trying to form a matching set like a slot machine. His body wasn’t much better. Color and muscle mass changed rapidly, as did height. Gavin had to look away. The Trickster bent down and collected his robe and put it back on. Gavin made his way to his chair, and the Trickster did the same.

            Gavin stared at the Trickster. “You can’t remember. But, you’re trying to.”

            “Yes.” The Trickster sighed. “I brought you here to remind you of something.” He leaned over the table towards Gavin. “I do not know who I am. You made a vow that you would help me. I need your help.” Gavin leaned back as the Trickster leaned closer. “Fool. I need to remember. I cannot be a voice anymore. I desire a face. I desire memories. I know I had them. Go on your adventure tomorrow. But do not forget that I am here, and I am lost.” The Trickster leaned back and bowed his head. The room began to shake.

            “What is that?” Gavin exclaimed.

            The Trickster waved his hand. “They are trying to wake you up. It is time for you to go exploring, Fool. Good morning.” The image of the Trickster withered away, as did the rest of the room. Gavin woke with a start.

            Kdin was standing over him, tapping his foot on the floor.

            “Finally, Sleeping Beauty is awake. Are you ready to go?” He asked. Gavin got to his feet and messed with his hair.

            “Yeah, let's go explore another world.” Gavin said, less excited than he actually felt. A whole other world! Who else could say that they’d been to a different world? Kdin motioned for Gavin to follow. As they made their way outside, Kdin spoke over his shoulder.

            “I’m assuming you’ve seen the fountain?”

            Gavin nodded. “I’ve seen it, but I’ve never really thought anything of it.” To Gavin, the portal was simply decoration. Kdin smiled.

            “The fountain isn't something to ignore, Gavin. It's a world portal.”

            Gavin’s eyes widened. “Is that how we're getting to the other world?”

            “No Gavin, we’re going to fly there.” Kdin said sarcastically. “Yes, of course we're using the fountain.” They emerged into the open. Across the land mass, Gavin could barely make out the outlines of Matt and Jeremy.

            “That's a long walk.” Gavin muttered. He was still tired, and his legs still hadn't fully stretched. Kdin went on and called back to Gavin.

            “You’ll be fine.” He teleported away.

            Gavin saw his outline appear at the portal. “You bloody bastard!” He called.

            “What?” Was the reply. Gavin groaned and began walking. The king enderman appeared next to him with a squeak that Gavin assumed was a greeting. “Oh, hello.” Gavin said with an accompanying wave. He looked up at the flower in the pot that was the enderman’s crown. It hadn't wilted. Gavin frowned. He was still walking, but he didn't feel like he was getting any closer. He looked back to the king. “Hey. Could I get a teleport?” The enderman cocked his head. Gavin sighed, and then pointed at himself, and then towards the distant fountain. The enderman looked back and forth before its eyes grew wide with understanding. It grabbed Gavin with both arms and they both exploded into smoke.

            At the fountain, Kdin saw Gavin disappear along with the enderman. “Oh hell.” He groaned, and Gavin and the enderman appeared next to him. Gavin was shaking slightly.

            “K-kdin, I think I like teleporting with you better. Why am I so c-cold?”

            As Jeremy and Matt began to laugh, Kdin sighed. “Endermen teleport through the void. And the void is extremely cold.” Kdin looked up at the king, who returned a blank stare. “Dan seems to have taken a liking to you.” He said as he turned to Gavin, eye brows raised. Gavin looked up at the enderman.

            “Your name is Dan?” He asked, bewildered.

            Kdin cleared his throat. “Well, actually, that's his name translated. His untranslated name could melt your eardrums.”

            Gavin swallowed. “Oh. Well, nice to meet you Dan.” He held out his hand, and winced when a slightly scaly hand grabbed with uncertainty. Gavin looked to Kdin. “You don't try to teach them anything, do you?”

            Kdin shook his head. “There wouldn't be any point to it, really. And it would be time consuming, and we would have to keep their attention. No, too much work.”

            Matt spoke up. “Hey, as much as I’m enjoying the local wildlife encounter, can we get going?”

            Kdin shrugged. “If you’re ready. Gavin?”

            Dan released his grip. Gavin nodded. “I’m ready.”

            They stood around the fountain. Kdin directed them all on the travel protocols. “Do not open your eyes until I tell you to. Otherwise you will go blind. Bend your knees when I say bend your knees. Otherwise you will break your legs. Keep your hands to yourself. Anything you touch will fuse to you, permanently. Including other people.” He shot a glare at Jeremy and Matt. “So no gymnastics bullshit until we’ve landed. If you feel like you need to throw up afterwards, don't. There are some undesirable results.” He looked around. “Does everyone understand?” Matt and Jeremy, who had already been given this speech, nodded. But Gavin raised his hand.

            “So do we just jump in? Or is there some special protocol for that?”

            Kdin shook his head. “Just leap.” Gavin nodded and took a deep breath. “On the count of three. One. Two. Three.” They all jumped into the murky water of the fountain, eyes closed. Instantly Gavin felt his body being stretched and squeezed, but he didn't dare open his eyes to see the changes. An icy wind and a hot wind were blowing on him simultaneously, and his ears were filled with the sound of light and colors. Gavin didn't know how he knew that these were the sounds of light and color, he just did. A voice broke through the din. “BEND YOUR KNEES.” ,Gavin complied, and his feet fell on something crunchy and solid. “Don't open your eyes yet!” Kdin yelled. He ran around touching each of them on the shoulder to make sure they were completely there. “Okay, you can open them.”

            Gavin managed to pry his eyes open, and the first thing he saw was a field of dead grass. There were footprints leading away, and Gavin assumed that these were from the last expedition here. A mass of leafless trees stood next to the forest, the fallen leaves long decomposed. Jeremy spoke from behind him. “Turn around if you're brave enough Gavin.” Gavin frowned and turned to face them, and then he gasped. Their entire bodies were pitch black, all three of them, and their eyes glowed purple.

            “You look like endermen.” Gavin whispered. Jeremy chuckled.

            “So do you, dude.” Gavin looked at his hands to find that Jeremy was right.

            Gavin looked to Kdin. “What is this stuff?”

            Kdin shrugged. “It just means that you don't belong in this world.” Jeremy took out a bottle of water.

            “Hey, Gavin.” He took the cork off and splashed the water at Gavin. Most of it missed, but a single drop landed on Gavin’s real hand. The drop started sizzling, and Gavin yelped and shook his hand. Jeremy and Matt began laughing until they saw the look on Kdin’s face. They fell silent.

            After Gavin was done getting the water off, he looked at them. “So water hurts us too? Why?”

            Kdin shrugged again. “I don't know. That kind of stuff isn't really my forte. But we should get going. I’m not going to be a dragon this time, so we're just gonna have to walk.”

            Gavin groaned again. “Can't you just teleport us there?” Kdin shook his head.

            “The most I can do here is teleport you guys to me. Magic is scarce. Let's head out.” As they walked, wherever they stepped, the dead grass crumbled under their feet. They were walking through the woods, trying their best to see since the branches over head were so thick, when they came out into a clearing. Gavin gasped. In front of them was a huge town, with decrepit and worn down buildings. But that wasn't why he gasped. Behind the town, looming over them, was a large fortress, even taller than Geoff's house. The stone was black, and there were chunks missing, and the whole building looked like it was built thousands of years ago, with ancient looking architecture. Gavin looked over at Kdin, who just kept advancing to the town gate. Gavin called after him. “Is that really where we're going?”

            “Yep.” Kdin replied. “That's where we found that letter. But last time we didn't look through the town at all, so we need to look around there some first.” They reached the gate. Kdin pushed it open. Instantly a feeling of unease washed over all of them. The buildings were dark, and the road led to a big square. As they walked down the street, wind howled through open windows. There was a sign in the middle of the square. Matt read one of the arrows that pointed east. “Library. That seems like a good place to find some info, don’t you think, Kdin?” Kdin nodded.

            “It would be very informative. As long as the books don't dissolve in our hands, of course.”

            As they walked to the library, Gavin heard The Trickster.

            “Fool. I do not like this place.”

            “Neither do I.” Gavin muttered. “This place is bloody creepy.”

            “No, Fool, that is not what I mean. I do not feel… safe.”

            “How can you not feel safe? You're in my head.”

            “I fear for your safety, Fool.” The Trickster shuddered. “That felt strange to say. I’ve never said something like that before.”

            “How sweet.” Gavin said, rolling his eyes. “I’ve said that to my friends so many times, though.”

            “Then obviously I did not have friends in the sense that you did, Fool.” The Trickster muttered, acid laced in his voice. They arrived at the library. Kdin turned to the three of them.

            “Check the oldest looking books first. Anything about this past empire will do.” He pushed open the door, causing dust to stir. They split up, Gavin going to the back of the building first, far from the others. He whispered to the Trickster.

            “Do you really ‘fear for my safety’?”

            “Yes. I do not know what would happen to me should you perish.” The Trickster said matter-of-factly.

            “Wow, thanks. What kind of person can't care about the people that keep them from dying.” Gavin muttered, pulling out a book and opening it.

            “You should know, Fool.”

            Gavin slammed the book closed. “Shut up.” He placed the book back on the shelf and picked up another one.

            “Fool, I only jest. I fear you may be correct about me, though. I might not be able to care about people past them keeping me alive.”

            Gavin slammed another book shut. “Oh, don't be so hard on yourself. I'm sure there's some other parasite out there that's just like you in the capacity that it can ‘care’.”

            “Parasite? Young sir, I am not a parasite. I am a human being, just as you are.”

            Gavin slammed another book shut, and his mouth contorted into a snarl. “No, you aren't. You are a nothing. You are a voice in my head. You don't have a life beyond me. You can't leave me. You can't even remember anything besides me. You are nothing now, and I assume that you were nothing before me.” He slammed another book shut, finding it had nothing related to the letter.

            “Once I remember, I will show you that I was not nothing. I am sure that I was great. He always told me so. He told me that I was greater than those around me, and that I should not let them exceed me, lest he be disappointed.”

            Gavin froze. “What did you just say?”

            “I said, he-“ The Trickster paused in surprise. “He…”

            “Who is ‘he,’ Trickster?” Gavin said as he slowly replaced the book onto the shelf.

            “I- I do not know. But he was there. He bred me for greatness. But I do not know who he was. I just remember his words. They just came to me. Fool.I am scared. We must leave.”

            “No. We aren't leaving just because you remembered your daddy or some bollocks. We're staying here.”

            “Fool…”

            Gavin picked up another book. “No. Shut up.” He flipped through the pages before stopping on one when a word caught his eye. He read the passage to himself.

            “In the year 1167, they died. Passing away from old age and disease, without an heir among them. One of them had perished many years before in a failed attack on a faraway kingdom, when they were still young adults. We were free, finally, from tyranny.’ The rest of the page was ruined, but Gavin closed the book and started to make his way through the shelves in search of Kdin, whom he found surrounded by piles of books. Kdin looked up.

            “All these books are useless. Please tell me you found something.”

            Gavin nodded and handed the book to him, opening it to the correct page. Kdin read the paragraph and his eyes got wide.

            “Amazing. These people were so sure that their artifact would make them immortal that they didn't even try to make any heirs. What idiots. Anyways, I don't think we're going to find anything more here. From the history books I’ve been reading, this town just wanted to forget everything about these tyrants.” He said, standing.

            “Should I go find Matt and Jeremy?” Gavin asked, looking around. Kdin shook his head.

            “No need. I can bring them here. However, the significant deficiency of magic in this world means that I’ll have to use an actual magic spell to summon them rather than just snapping my fingers.” He motioned for Gavin to step back to create a space in the aisle. He sat down, rolled his neck, and cracked his knuckles. “Alright. Here we go.” Kdin closed his eyes and put his finger in front of his face, concentrating. A purple glow appeared at his finger tip, and when he moved it about an inch off of the floor, a purple, pulsating line appeared. He flourished his arm to create a perfect circle, and another smaller one inside. He drew lines connecting the two, and drew strange symbols in the spaces in-between. Gavin was amazed that he did all this with his eyes closed. The inner circle glowed brightly, and wind came out, blowing Kdin's hair back. Kdin brought both of his hands together in front of him, and when light filled his hands, he threw his hands apart. The circle flashed, and when the light faded, Matt and Jeremy were in a pile on the floor. Gavin was wide eyed.

            “Wow.” He breathed. Matt and Jeremy struggled to their feet. Matt looked around in anger.

            “I really hate it when you do it like that, Kdin. It's way more uncomfortable than how you usually do it.” Kdin stood up and shrugged.

            “It's a lot more fun for me though.” Kdin said, fixing his hair, and brushing off his cape. “Let's go.” He took off. They walked out and saw that the sun had moved behind the fortress, causing it to be drowned in shadow, and the town with it.

            Gavin gulped. “To the castle?”

            Kdin nodded, just as uneasy. “To the castle.”

 

Michael woke to the front door of Roy’s cabin closing. Michael frowned, rubbed his eyes and walked to the table. Upon seeing the missing poster on the table, he swore to himself and bolted out the door. Roy’s figure was moving quickly through the trees, and Michael broke into a sprint.

            He yelled after him. “Roy!”

            Roy turned and his eyes grew wide with fear. He started to run, dodging trees. Michael was faster, however, and he launched himself at Roy. His arms wrapped around Roy’s legs, and they both fell to the ground. Roy attempted to shake Michael off, but Michael climbed on top of him, holding him down. Roy struggled to no avail.

            “Please don't hurt me, sir! I'm sorry!” He covered his face with his hands.

            Michael frowned. “Where were you going?”

            “To tell the guards where you are! They're looking for you! I didn't want you to attack me!” Roy was so scared that he was almost in tears.

            Michael growled and stood up, letting Roy free. “Don't move. You can't tell the guards where I am.”

            Roy frowned. “Why? Why do you want to run away?”

            Michael sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Because something is being covered up. And I think it's pretty bad. But I'm going to find out what it is.”

            Roy scrambled to his feet. “How do you know this? The flyer said that you were irrational and violent. You could just be paranoid. Sir.” Roy said, looking at the ground.

            Michael scowled. “You don't know what you're talking about. You're just a kid.”

            Roy raised an eyebrow. “Would just a kid be able to survive on his own for two months in this dangerous world?”

            Michael rolled his eyes. “I guess not. But you can't tell the guards where I am. I'm leaving tonight. You won't have to see me again.” Roy nodded, and then he smiled.

            “I still didn't show you how I was feeding myself, did I?” Michael shook his head. “Well then I’ll have to. Gotta show off to someone.” He pushed past Michael before Michael walked alongside him, hand on his shoulder.

            “Can't have you trying anything.” Michael growled.

            They walked back to Roy’s house and around the back, where there was a cellar door. Roy opened it up and revealed an extremely brightly lit room, torches lining the walls. Michael froze up.

            “Oh hell no. I am not going down there.”

            Roy frowned. “Why are you so afraid of fire?”

            Images flashed through Michael head before he shrugged. “I just don't like fire.”

            Roy gave him a suspicious look before staring down. “Well, I have a whole farm down there. My father figured out a way to grow crops underground, and he taught me about it. I know everything he does.” Michael frowned.

            “I don't believe you.”

            Roy shrugged. “Then it's too bad you can't go down and see, huh?” He closed up the doors and locked them. “What will you do now?” Michael laughed.

            “I can't tell you that.”

            “Because you don't know?”

            “Of course I know!” Michael exclaimed. Roy raised an eyebrow. “Okay, fine, maybe I don't have a complete plan.”

            Roy frowned and then he smiled again. “I know someone that may be able to help. There's a witch in the woods that can show a person’s past and stuff. But only one person at a time. And she needs a strand of hair from the person you want to view.” Michael groaned.

            “I don't have any hair from anyone!” Geoff's house came into view as he rounded the corner of Roy’s cabin. “But I might know where I can get some.”

           

            Jack had been walking around the castle since the flyers had been posted. It helped him not focus on everything that had happened in the past… three months? Three months for it all to fall apart. After six years. What kind of family falls apart that easily? Jack sighed. Their family did. He blinked away a few tears when he saw a servant coming down the hallway. Jack gave the man a cheerful smile and a happy wave as he walked past. Then he hung his head again. Why couldn't he just fix it? He could fix anything. Houses, tools, animals. He’d cut Geoff off on alcohol countless times since Gavin’s death. He’d even talked to Ryan a few times. But he wasn't strong enough to fix this. Why wasn't he strong enough? He could have prevented all of this if Gavin hadn’t won that day in the maze. If he had won instead. Jack stopped. He was at the throne room. Was Ryan there? He could use someone to talk to. He pushed the door open slowly. “Ryan? Are you in here, buddy?” The throne was void of its owner. However, the crown was sitting on the arm of the throne. Ryan must have just stepped out. Jack looked down the hallway both ways, and then he slipped inside. Jack looked around at his architecture. He had designed most of the castle, of course, but the throne room was his proudest achievement. His eyes were drawn back to the throne. He’d never sat in it, he realized. Now, no one was here. Jack knew it wasn't right. He wasn't the King. Ryan was. His eyes flicked back to the door. No one was coming. He walked up the steps to the throne. No one was coming, still. Jack turned and sat down. He was really high up. He glanced at the crown. He really shouldn't. But no one would know. Maybe he’d feel better. He placed the crown on his brow. He imagined his coronation day. Minstrels, as far as the eye could see. Long live King Jack the Kind! Jack mimicked the noise of crowds cheering. A sad smile lingered on his face. He did feel a little better.

            The door began to open and Ryan walked through. He saw Jack on the throne. “Jack! What are you doing? Get down from there! And give me my crown back!” Jack jumped up.

            “Oh, yeah. Sorry, Ryan.” He hurried down the stairs and kept the crown steady on his head. He handed it back to Ryan, who looked at him with disdain.

            “Don't sit in my throne again, please.” He said, walking back to his room behind the throne. Jack frowned and left grumbling.

            “I just wanted to feel like the King for once, bite me.”

He walked around the castle for a while longer before he saw Geoff entering the dining room with a bottle of ale. Jack sighed. in relief. Something to fix. Finally.

            After Jack had left and Ryan had gone back to his office, slamming the door, he began grumbling.

            “Why must people insist to mess with my things? They're my things. My crown. My throne. I'm not going to tolerate it anymore.” Ryan said to the empty room. He twirled the crown around his fingers. “If anyone wears my shit again, I don't know what I’ll do. Bullshit. It's all fucking bullshit.”

            A voice floated through the window. “Ryan? Is that you? Who the fuck are you talking to?” It was Ray. Ryan swore to himself and went to the window. The gardens were right behind the throne room. Ray liked to spend his time there nowadays. Ryan should have closed the window. He called down.

            “What do you mean?”

Ray yelled back up. “Get down here! I want to talk to you!”

            Ryan rolled his eyes and leaned back inside, placing the crown on his head. He hurried out the door, wondering what Ray could possibly have to say now. When he reached the garden, he made his way to where he had seen Ray, and found him sitting next to a bed of roses, picking them. Ryan cleared his throat and Ray looked up at him.

            “Oh, hello.” He stood up and brushed himself off.

            Ryan rolled his eyes. “What did you want to talk to me about?”

            “I was just wondering who you were talking to. You know, since I didn't hear anyone talking back.” Ray said, leaning down and picking up a rose to smell it.

            Ryan frowned. “And why is that any of your business?” Ray stared at the rose.

            “D’you remember the day you were banished?”

            Ryan nodded. “Of course I do.”

            “Do you remember what you were doing before we went over to the portal?” Ryan stayed silent. “You were talking to no one. I don't need to remind you that you were at your lowest that day.” Ryan shook his head, but still didn't say anything. “So I just wanna know why you're maintaining that you're completely sane when I just overheard you talking to yourself.” Ryan looked to the side.

            “So what if I was talking to myself? I'm sure you’ve talked to yourself before.”

            Ray nodded. “I have. But you're a different story, Ryan. You're not safe. For yourself, us, or this kingdom.”

            Ryan grew incredulous. “I am doing my best for this kingdom!”

            Ray closed his eyes and turned away. “Well it's not enough.” Ryan frowned and went to put his hand on Ray’s shoulder, but Ray pulled away. “Don't fucking touch me. Do you remember what you did in front of the portal? What you said about us? The R&R Connection?” Ryan took a step back.

            “I remember.”

            “You tried to use our friendship to get out of it. And you remember what you did when it didn't work? You called me a traitor. A fucking traitor. You deserved to be thrown into the Nether. You don't deserve this crown.” Ray said, grabbing the crown off of Ryan’s head. He noticed the murderous look that Ryan was giving him and put it on. “What are you gonna do Ryan? You gonna make me bleed? Make me the same color as my roses?” He waved the rose he was holding and swore when one of the thorns dug into him, dropping it. Blood oozed out. Ryan snatched the crown back.

            “Go clean the dining room.” He growled. Ray looked at him in disbelief.

            “Are you fucking serious right now?”

            Ryan nodded. “Mop the floor, dust the table, and clean out the chimney. And never touch my crown again.” He walked away swiftly, Ray staring after him. His cut started to sting.

            “Fucking shit.” He muttered. He examined it, staring at the blood that was running out, watching it run down his finger, staining his skin a deep red. He shook his head and started to make his way to the castle doctor. He was going to do what Ryan said, not because he liked it, but because he had nothing else to do. And he was never touching that crown again.

Chapter Text

            After their run-ins with Ryan, Ray and Jack had decided to go to a café in the city to discuss Ryan’s apparent decrease in mental state. Ray took a sip of his Redbull tea before bringing it up.

            “So, Ryan snapped at you about the crown too?”

            Jack nodded. “Yeah, he did. I was sitting on the throne and wearing the crown, because he wasn't there. I don't know why he got so mad.”

            “Maybe it's because you were sitting on the throne without his permission.” Ray said, resting his head on one hand.

            “Well, yeah, but it's not like it's that big of a deal. I’d never even sat on the throne before today, so I don't know why he bit my head off about it.” Jack muttered, taking a bite out of his bagel.

            Ray stared at the people passing in the street for a minute. “I think he's starting again.” He said suddenly. Jack raised an eyebrow.

            “Why do you say that?”

            “Because I heard him talking to himself in that way he did before. It was weird.”

            Jack frowned. “So?”

            “So then he makes me clean the dining room for putting the crown on! That's totally unreasonable! Considering that you went the extra mile and got off scot free.” He took another sip of his drink. “I swear, he's cracking again.”

            Jack sighed. “Are you sure this isn't about what he did when he cracked the last time?”

            “Yes! This isn't about that at all! He's going crazy again! I'm not being paranoid! Just because he locked me in the dungeon for a week doesn't mean I'm going to be suspicious of him all the fucking time! But he's giving me a reason!” Jack put his hand on Ray’s shoulder.

            “You need to calm down for a second. Ryan's going to be fine. We're all reeling from everything that's happened, and as the King, I’m sure Ryan is taking the brunt of it. I mean, I wouldn't know from experience, but I’m guessing.” Ray took a deep breath.

            “I guess you might be a little right. Being the King is a big responsibility, and you have to handle the big things.”

            “What is it like being King?” Jack asked suddenly. Ray raised an eyebrow.

            “Uh, well, it's pretty exciting, at first. You get to lounge in a chair all day, directing servants and all of you guys to do shit.” Ray noticed the gleam in Jack’s eye as he listened. “And then, uh, when the time comes, you plan your competition, and you get all those magical powers and shit, and you watch your friends compete for your favor. It's pretty cool.” Jack was smiling at the thought of it. “Why do you ask?”

            Jack shook out his fog. “What? Oh, no reason. Just curious, is all.” Ray nodded and then he spoke again.

            “You know, I wish Geoff had passed out drunk on his way to the throne room that night.”

            Jack chuckled. “I’m sure he almost did. But I get what you mean. If Gavin hadn’t killed Geoff-“

            “Maybe we could have talked some sense into him. Yeah.” He downed the rest of his drink. Jack sighed.

            “But the thing is, Gavin was too far gone. He was already looking for vengeance. No amount of talking could have reversed that.”

            Ray smiled. “I’m sure you could have said something to snap him out of it.”

            Jack frowned. “I’m not sure about that. I can't say a lot to fix what's happening now.”

            “Well, you can't bring someone back from the dead.” Jack didn’t respond. “I told Ryan he deserved to be thrown into the Nether.”

            Jack looked at him in surprise. “Ray, why would you say that? You saw how he looked on the other side of that portal. He was terrified.”

            “Yeah, I know. But he was such an asshole.”

            Jack chuckled. “I think that may be a bit of an understatement.”

            “Whatever. He fucking caused all of this, you know. He's the reason Gavin became King.”

            Jack tilted his head. “Now, how was Ryan supposed to know that any of this would happen? It's not his fault.”

            “He said he fucking saw signs of Gavin’s madness. He could have done something, anything!”

            “Anything he coulda done would have been seen as an attack on Gavin for no reason. And the Tower ensures that no one can just die, so Gavin's resentment would have just grown.”

            Ray nodded. He traced his finger around the rim of his cup. “I really miss him. Even after everything he did to us, I really miss him.”

            Jack nodded. “I miss him too, buddy. But he's smiling at us from somewhere.”

            Ray humphed. “Yeah, it's times like these when I want to believe there's a place like that. Thanks.”

            Jack smiled. “No problem. It's what I do.” He spotted a group of guards patrolling for Michael. Even though, of course, Michael wouldn't just be out in the open. But they couldn't be too thorough. If they were going to find him before he hurt someone, or himself, they needed to do everything they could. A thin teenage boy walked up to their table.

            “Excuse me, sirs, but can you direct me to a dye shop in the area?” He said, looking around. Jack gave him a smile.

            “Of course, young lad. Just down the street. It’ll be on your left.”

            The boy bowed his head quickly. “Thank you.” He hurried away. Ray stared after him.

            “I wonder where his parents are.”

            Jack shrugged and stood up. “We should probably be heading back to the castle.” Ray nodded and tipped his drink back one more time to get any last drops before following after Jack.

 

            While Roy was gone to town, Michael had busied himself by sneaking to other farmers in the area to steal from clotheslines. He returned to Roy's cabin with an armful of assorted garments and began seeing which ones would fit. In the end, the only things that would fit were a white button up shirt, a black coat made of a light fabric, and some brown pants that were fit midway up his shins. He looked down at himself with it all on. He looked nothing like himself. Which was a good thing, apart from the fact that he was dressed hideously as far as peasant wear went. Wearing the same outfit everyday for six years really destroyed a person’s fashion sense. Michael looked over at his royal clothes neatly folded in the corner. It was a shame that he was so notorious for his outfit. He would rather be wearing that to go into town, but beggars can't be choosers. He sat for a while before Roy returned with a bag of three boxes. When he saw Michael's outfit, he began to laugh.

            “Dude, what are you wearing? You look like you could be my grandfather!” He said as he placed the bag onto the table. Michael growled and then looked at the bag.

            “Is that it?”

            Roy took out the boxes. “Yep. Brown dye, black dye, and yellow dye, just like you said. But, don't you think that dying your hair is a little overkill?”

            “No. I need to make sure I’m not recognized. I'm going into the city. It’ll be swarming with guards. I need to be completely disguised.”

            Roy sighed. “Alright…”

            Michael stood up. “So let's get to it.”

            Roy looked at the boxes. “Which one do you want?”

            Michael tilted his head. “Yellow. It's the farthest thing from my natural hair. We can add some brown in there to make it darker if it's way too light.” Roy nodded and they got to work, and by dinner time Michael's hair was a light dirty blonde. When his hair was done drying and Roy saw it, his eyes went wide.

            “Woah. You look completely different.” He went to his nightstand and pulled out a mirror and handed it to Michael.

            Michael stared at the stranger in the glass. “This is perfect. Thank you, Roy.” He put the mirror down. “Thanks for everything.”

            Roy shrugged. “It's no big deal. It was either help you or get a sword in my throat, and that would have sucked, so… yeah.”

            Michael looked at himself in the mirror again. Along with his outfit and his new hair, he only barely resembled his old appearance. But his face was still his face. He had grabbed a scarf when he was stealing clothes, and he wrapped it around his nose and mouth where he could still breathe, leaving his eyes. He didn't look like a person that resembled Michael anymore. He looked like a stranger. It was almost bone chilling. He looked outside and saw the sun was getting low in the sky.

            “I’m going to have to stay for another night. Is that okay?”

            Roy shrugged. “I guess. As long as you don't strangle me in my sleep.”

            Michael nodded. “Alright. I’ll be out of here at sunrise tomorrow.”

            Roy frowned. “You didn't say anything about the strangling.” Michael shrugged and walked to the bed. He went to sleep very quickly, before Roy even thought about sleeping.

 

            Ryan was awoken rather rudely in the morning when the head guard burst into his room.

            “Sir!”

            Ryan groaned and sat up. He had bedhead something awful. “What do you want?”

            The man stood at attention. “A patrol of guards was searching the woods when they found a sign that directed them to the hut of a seer, sir! Do you suppose Lord Michael might go there?”

            Ryan got to his feet. “At ease. There is a chance, yes, but a seer needs physical DNA. Michael doesn't have that.” He walked out of his room after getting dressed, the head guard still behind him.

            “Sir, should we post guards there just in case?”

            Ryan nodded. “Yes, of course. But how he would get DNA without infiltrating the castle is beyond me.” He stepped into the courtyard, and Geoff’s house came into view. Ryan's eyes narrowed.

 

            Shortly before Ryan was woken up by the head guard, Michael emerged from a dirt path onto the road to town. The road was used to travel from the town to many different Monuments, the most important of which being AH Farms. It was another twenty minutes before he reached the gate of the town, and he got in without any trouble. As he walked down the street with his scarf pulled up onto his face, he realized how easy it was to be hidden. No one questioned his scarf or his odd apparel. No guards stopped him. No one looked at him like they recognized him by just his eyes. This was going to be simple. He emerged onto the square between Ray and Gavin’s house. Geoff’s house on the left loomed over him. It would be open, of course, all of their houses were unlocked. The citizens looked around them as they pleased, and they never had any trouble with vandals. Michael made his way over to the door of Geoff’s house and peeked inside before entering. There wasn't anybody inside, which was normal. The inside of Geoff's house really wasn't that interesting. The roof, however, was a great view that the citizens loved to take advantage of. Michael opened the door and stepped inside. At the end of the house was Geoff's bed, where Michael was sure there was something, anything, that the witch could use. His footsteps echoed as he walked, the sounds of the outside muffled by the walls. He reached the bed and bent down close to the area around the pillow. His search proved fruitless, so he lifted the pillow to find two strands of Geoff's black hair. He picked them up carefully, and he stood, examining them. His means of uncovering the truth glinted in the dim light of the torches on the walls as an iron shovel struck him in the back of the head, forcing him out of consciousness.

 

            Michael's first thought wasn't to open his eyes, but to struggle with the ropes he felt binding his hands behind his back. He was still reeling from the hit, and he couldn't muster enough strength to break them. When he did open his eyes and saw the burning torch lying in front of him, he yelped and tilted backwards, causing the chair to tip. He struggled away from it, lying on the floor, still in its light but nowhere near it. He spotted a figure standing in the darkness.

            “Who the fuck are you?” Michael shouted. The figure bowed its head in response. “I’ll tear your fucking head off if you don't say something!” The figure walked around the circle of light behind Michael and righted him, then went back to his place. “That's not an answer.” Michael growled. The figure began walking forward, and green armor glinted as he stepped into the light. It was Geoff. “You? What the fuck is this? Where are we?” Michael shouted as he kept struggling with his ropes. Geoff closed his eyes, as if he was tired.

            “Michael, please. You need to stop struggling and listen. We're in the basement under my house.” He said with a voice that suggested he had been doing a lot of crying. Michael stopped struggling.

            “Alright. I'm listening.” He spat.

            Geoff bowed his head. “What you said was true.”

            Michael smiled with malice. “I fucking knew it! NOW COME OVER HERE AND UNTIE ME SO I CAN FUCKING KILL YOU!” He yelled. As he yelled and struggled wit his ropes, Geoff’s eyes grew wide and his nose flared, his mouth contorting into a sneer.

            “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Geoff roared, releasing more rage, stress, and emotion than Michael had at any point in the past weeks. Michael instantly fell silent, surprised by how intimidating and terrifying Geoff could be. Geoff sat with his legs folded on the ground. “Just shut up.” He whispered. Michael stared at him.

            “What did you do, Geoff? Tell me.” Geoff just shook his head. “I need to know!”

            “Well I didn't.” Geoff said as he looked up to make eye contact with Michael. Michael realized just how tired his eyes were. It was clear he hadn't slept the entire night, and there was some kind of other stress that was making him exhausted. “I didn't need to know that I'm the reason all of this is happening.” He muttered.

            Michael couldn’t take it anymore. He felt a lump forming in his throat. “Geoff. Please. Tell me. I need to know.” Geoff closed his eyes and took a deep breath, but a voice sounded from behind Michael.

            “Well, well, well. If it isn't Geoff and Michael.” Ryan stepped into the light and slapped his hand onto Michael’s shoulder, and Michael froze in a dread he hadn't felt in three months. The dread of Ryan. Guards climbed down the ladder and gathered behind Ryan. Ryan smiled at Michael and took the crown off his head. Geoff, who was still on the ground, stared at Ryan as the King walked over to stand above him.

            Ryan turned the crown over in his hands. “Since recently people have been insisting on wearing my crown, then there's no harm in you all wearing it. You know, round it out, let you all get a taste. So here we have the king of trying to control people that aren't his to control.” Ryan muttered as he slammed the crown around Geoff's head. Ryan grabbed the crown back and ran to Michael, laughing to himself. “And here is the king of being fucking pissed at people that didn't do SHIT to him.” He said, dropping the crown around Michael's brow. He replaced it onto his own head and turned to the guards, face growing serious. “Arrest them.”

            Geoff looked shocked as the guards brought him and Michael to their feet. “What are we being arrested for?”

            Ryan smiled at him. “Well, you're being arrested for kidnapping.” Geoff looked bewildered. “And Michael is being arrested for breaking his confinement.” Michael tried to pull away from the guards before submitting. “So, I hope you enjoy the dungeon. And, Michael, we have guards posted at the Spawn Point, so don't even try it.” Ryan looked down at the torch on the ground as Michael and Geoff were led away. He stomped on the flame with a smile.

 

            The guards led Michael and Geoff into the dungeon cell. They were chained to the wall with long chains. Geoff gave Michael a nervous look. “Are these chains supposed to be this long?”

            The guard attaching the chain to the wall looked over at him. “Sir, we just thought that you would want to be able to move around.”

            “It's fine.” Michael growled. Geoff gulped. The guard nodded and walked out, locking the cell behind him. As soon as the footsteps faded away, Michael had his chains around Geoff's neck. Geoff’s hands scrabbled at the metal as Michael pulled them tight. “You better fucking talk.” He hissed. Geoff nodded to the best of his ability and Michael released him. Geoff massaged his throat and let his breathing regulate before he motioned for Michael to sit on the floor. Geoff sat across from him.

            Geoff looked around the cell, illuminated by dingy light from a narrow window. He turned back to Michael. “Well… um… I guess it started with my armor.” He said, rapping his knuckles on it. He chuckled. “Cause this, is a prisoner’s uniform.” He said with a nervous smile. Michael's jaw dropped.

 

            Gavin stepped through the doorway of the castle. He noticed the giant wooden doors on the floor. He turned to Kdin. “Was this you?”

            Kdin nodded. “I was a dragon and the doors were locked. Easy solution.” He said with a smile. He turned to Jeremy. “You have the torches, yeah?”

            Jeremy nodded and pulled them out his bag. He lit them up and handed them out.

            “Okay, we're going to do this together, because last time Matt almost got crushed by a roof collapsing.” Kdin said as he took the lead.

            Matt clicked his tongue. “That wasn't my fault, and it had nothing to do with me being by myself, and you know it.”

            “Whatever.” Kdin muttered. He led the way up the grand staircase. There was a carving covered in dust at the top, but it was barely defined anymore. “Look for anything on the walls, like carvings. If it depicts a story, that's even better.”

            Gavin nodded. He could hear the Trickster whispering in his head. It wasn't maddening, but it was certainly annoying. He had been muttering to himself since the library, and Gavin made out enough to know that he was repeating what he had said about the “he” he had mentioned. Gavin was pretty sure it was killing the Trickster to not know what his own words meant. The group found themselves at a spiral staircase that led up and down. Kdin examined the steps and central pillar, and then he nodded, ascending. When they reached the top, he opened the first door on the left. It was a bedroom, relatively ornate. Swords and shields were hung along the walls. “I wonder who's room this was.” Kdin muttered. He motioned for them to search the furniture. The desk was empty and the wardrobe had scraps of cloth, but otherwise nothing else was interesting. A frame was hung over the bed, but the painting was missing from it. They went into the next room, yet another bedroom. This one was bare bones, with only a bed and a wardrobe, and even the bed was plain. There were blood stains all over the floor, and Gavin shivered. There was nothing to search, so they went on. The next door wouldn’t open, so Kdin looked through the crack in the wall. There were planks boarding up the door from the inside, which was strange, and a desk with a stack of papers a foot and a half high. Kdin's eyes sparkled.

            “We need to get in there.” He said, turning to the rest of them. “But the door is blocked up.”

            “Maybe we can break through the wall of the next room.” Jeremy said, walking toward the adjacent door. The floor creaked under him, and splintered slightly. Jeremy stepped back quickly. “Uh, never mind, maybe I shouldn't go over there.”

            Kdin rolled his eyes. “So who's the lightest?”

            “Gavin.” Matt and Jeremy said in unison. Gavin groaned.

            “Fine. But if that floor caves in, I’m blaming all of you.” He said as he stepped forward. The floor creaked again as he walked across it, and he tiptoed quickly to the next door. This one swung open and Gavin walked inside with caution. This room was not a bedroom, surprisingly. There was a large table in the middle, with a map on it. It seemed to be a map of an attack that was being attempted. Or had been attempted. There was a checkmark over every castle model. Gavin gulped. This was a serious operation. He spotted a pickaxe in the corner. While Gavin considered it strange, he also found it convenient. He picked up the axe and swung it at the connecting wall. It crumbled relatively quickly, and Gavin stepped inside.

            “I'm in!” He yelled to Kdin.

            “Okay Gavin, hurry up and open the door!” Kdin yelled back. Gavin nodded. He moved to the desk first, though. The papers weren’t text, like Kdin thought. They were diagrams. Blueprints for machines, machines that launched explosives. There was a note on the desk, though. It said “The boat leaves in the morning. Do not be late again.” The handwriting was the same as the one from the letter that Kdin showed him. Gavin heard the Trickster fall silent suddenly. He looked to the door for a minute and was about to step towards it when a noise like a blaring fog horn roared in Gavin’s head. Gavin screamed and covered his ears, doubling over, but it didn't block out the noise. Kdin, Matt, and Jeremy began banging on the door.

            “Gavin! What's happening?”

            As quickly as it started, the noise stopped.

            “Fool. I must speak to you. Now.

            Gavin felt his head begin to pound as he turned to the door, and saw Kdin looking through the crack with panicked eyes. Black flooded into his vision as the ceiling replaced the door.

 

            The black that filled his vision was slowly replaced by wood. It was the Trickster’s “home.” Gavin looked around. There was no one there. A shadow passed the window. Gavin walked to it and looked outside. The wall fell down when he turned to walk away, and a hallway formed. Gavin walked down it, apprehensive at the newly formed architecture. He walked for a while before arriving in another room, which seemed to have walls and a ceiling made of stone. There was a mirror on the other side of the room. Gavin stepped in and he heard a scraping noise behind him. He turned to see that the hallway had been covered up. He turned back to see the hooded figure standing in front of the mirror. He stepped towards it.

            “Trickster? What the hell are you doing, making me pass out?”

            The Trickster stiffened. “Fool. Nice of you to join me.” He said. Gavin gasped. The voice was different. He didn't sound like Gavin anymore. The voice wasn't deep, but it wasn't high. It was airy, playful, a teasing lilt on every syllable, with no accent whatsoever. It was almost chilling how joyful he sounded. Gavin stepped forward.

            “Wot are you playing at?” He asked, taking on a threatening tone. The Trickster lifted his hands to hood.

            “Oh, nothing. Just admiring myself.” He threw the hood back, and a blonde ponytail tumbled onto the back of his robe. Gavin's mouth opened in shock. The Trickster let the robe fall to the ground. He wore plain brown clothes, that was the first thing Gavin noticed, and he was tall and lithe. But when he turned around, Gavin almost couldn't process what he was seeing. Instead of a mess of features, the Trickster was stable. His face was thin and pointed, and his skin was deeply tanned. His nose was average, his mouth smaller than such, stitched into a tight smirk. Laugh lines set heavy on his cheeks, and a patch of hair ran from his lip to his chin. The hair that wasn't pulled into the ponytail was hanging in front of his face. He had thick eyebrows and his eyes were shallow, a bright blue. The Trickster’s mouth relaxed into a natural smile when he saw Gavin’s expression. “Beautiful, aren't I?” Gavin shook out of his surprise.

            “Y-you remembered.” He stuttered.

            The Trickster nodded. “That I did, Fool. That I did. And that's not all I remembered.” He said, walking forward. He leaned in close to Gavin. “I remember the day that I died.” He giggled. “Isn't that exciting?” He laughed again, harder. Then he turned towards the mirror and threw himself at it, pounding his fist on the glass. “I. Fucking. Remember. The. Day. That. I. Died. Isn't that fucking exciting?” The mirror shattered with the final punch, cutting the Trickster's hands in multiple places. The Trickster paid no mind as he stalked back over to Gavin, grabbing him by the collar. “And what a day it was...” Gavin saw tears in the Trickster’s eyes. The Trickster brought his voice down to a low whisper and leaned in close to Gavin's ear. “Would you like me to show you, Fool?” Gavin nodded, very slowly.

Chapter Text

Geoff waited in the alleyway between the inn and the apothecary, peeking around the corner. He adjusted the hood over his head and put his hand around the hilt of his dagger in anticipation. A man dressed in fine clothes walked out of the apothecary, and Geoff licked his lips. As the man walked past Geoff, Geoff grabbed onto him and pulled him into the alleyway, drawing the dagger and putting it to the man’s throat.

“Empty your pockets.” Geoff hissed. The man reached down and took three bags of gold out of his robe, handing them to Geoff, who placed them into his knapsack. “Now get out of here. And don't say a damn thing.” He said, pushing the man back out onto the street and slinking to the back of the alley. He climbed up the wall of the inn and into his room that he had rented for the night. He pulled the bags out of his pockets and emptied the contents onto the table. He counted three hundred and twelve gold pieces. Geoff exhaled and ran his fingers through his hair. This would last him a month, maybe. Between food, board, and booze, he needed more to get by. Speaking of booze, Geoff remembered the whisky he’d started before going out, and he took a long swig of it. He stared at the gold. Stealing sucked. But it was money. He needed money. So he stole. He couldn't get a job, he had zero apprentice training, or at least, he’d forgotten what he'd had. There was a knock on the door, and Geoff grunted in protest. He got up anyway, and swung the door open for the owner of the inn.

“Yes?” Geoff asked in annoyance.

“Sir, we just had a man come in saying he was robbed, and that the perpetrator climbed into one of our rooms. Would you happen to know anything about that?” The owner asked with an urgent tone.

Geoff shook his head. “Can't say that I do.”

The owner’s eyes flicked past Geoff, and then back. “Alright, sir, sorry to bother you.”

Geoff shrugged. “No problem. Have a nice night.”

“And you, sir.” The owner said as Geoff closed the door. Geoff turned back to the table and began putting the money away. When he was done with that, he downed the rest of his drink and pulled out another from his bag. Within the next hour he was completely drunk, singing songs in slurred words to himself, and falling out of his chair every so often. He barely reacted when the door slammed open and guards rushed in to grab him.

“Hey!” He grumbled. “What is this about?”

“You're being arrested, you drunkard.” One of the guards said. “For mugging.”

Geoff laughed. “Oh, yeah. I did that, didn't I? But don't tell the guards.” He whispered. The guard rolled his eyes and continued to drag Geoff out of the inn and to the Black Fortress. The Black Fortress had been there since Geoff was born, in fact, since his grandfather was born. He didn't know why it was there. He didn't care. It was a prison, and a barracks, and a court. He steered clear of it when he could. They didn't even use most of the structure, just the ground floor and the dungeons. As far as Geoff knew, no one had ever gone past the ground floor. He was correct in that assumption, though he didn't know that. The whole town had no desire to explore the structure that had oppressed their ancestors for reasons unknown to them. Every night, the doors to the fortress were locked up tight from the inside, and no one was allowed in or out. Geoff was quickly found guilty of all charges and sentenced to twenty years in the dungeon. He was fitted with prisoner’s armor. The armor was made out of emeralds, but the shine of the gem was scuffed out so that the armor was a dark green color, and it was enchanted to lock up if the Fortress was breached during the night, to prevent any prisoners from escaping. The guards dragged him farther and farther underground, passing countless cells, full of prisoners, or locked from the inside, un-accessed for millennia. They brought him down to the lowest level of the dungeons and opened the first cell, throwing him inside. The guards slammed the door. “You know,” One of the older guards said to Geoff. “I think you're the first one to be locked in this cell. Congratulations.” He locked the door and walked away, leaving Geoff to toil.

Geoff resigned to despairing silence for a week. His food was given to him through a flap in the door, and he was allowed one bottle of alcohol every two days. The cell was almost pitch black, only lit by the light of a torch further down the hallway. Soon he began to think that the darkness was getting to him. He would feel hands on him, and there would be no one there. He heard wails of people being tortured when he knew for a fact that torture was illegal. After his week of moping, Geoff decided to struggle to his feet and do some exercises. Twenty push-ups, twenty sit-ups, and, reaching up into the darkness to find a metal bar, twenty pull-ups. One day, Geoff heard a voice from a cell across the hall.

“Hey, you.”

“What?” Geoff whispered.

“What are you in here for?”

“Mugging. You?”

“I stabbed a guy that was banging my girl.”

“Oh.” Geoff said, swallowing.

“Yeah, he was a dick.”

“Alright.”

“Hey, have you been noticing weird things?”

“Weird how?”

“Like your cell getting cold, or like footsteps, or people that aren't there touching you?”

Geoff sighed. It wasn't just him. “Yeah, I have been noticing stuff like that.”

“Oh, good. I thought I was finally going crazy. I guess it's just ghosts.”

Geoff snorted. “Just ghosts.”

The other man didn't respond, so Geoff walked to the back of his cell and sat against the wall. It was just a ghost. Not him losing his marbles. Another month passed. The strange occurrences began to steadily grow more intense. Bars would rattle, the torch’s light would sputter, and some people woke up with scratches under their armor. Geoff was glad that the ghost wasn't scratching him in his sleep. One day, near what Geoff assumed, and had assumed, since the day he got here, was nightfall, Geoff heard footsteps walking down the hallway towards his cell. The guards were coming. Geoff heard a torch go out. He frowned. Strange. The guards had never put the torches out before. Another torch went out. And then another. And then another. The footsteps were growing closer. The final torch went out, and the dungeon was plunged into darkness. Prisoners groaned in protest of the darkness but the footsteps continued until they were right outside Geoff's door. Suddenly, Geoff saw words forming in his head.

Hello.

“Hello?” Geoff yelled.

There is no need to shout. I am a… friend.

Geoff brought his voice down to a whisper. “A friend?”

Yes. I have an offer to make you.

“Wait a minute. Are you the ghost?”

What an ugly word. Ghost implies that one’s soul cannot return to the mortal plane nor move on. I am a… shadow.

“Fine. If you're a ‘shadow’, then how can you help me?”

I have a proposal.

Geoff’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of proposal?”

A way out. To become great. To become a god.

“A god? What do you mean?”

The power to create. To destroy. To rule.

“Rule? Rule what?”

Whatever you wish to rule. You may create your own world to rule, if you wish. You will not age. However, you may still die. Caution would still be necessary.

“What's the catch?”

How clever you are. You must help me escape. I cannot leave on my own. But you can help me. It will take no effort on your part. I will return in time. But you must help me leave this world.

“What do you mean, you’ll return in time?”

What I mean is that a ceremony will be performed, and I will return as a… by-product. You, of course, will have no part in it. Wei will not meet again.

“Is that it?”

The words did not come for a moment. Yes. That is all.

Geoff saw no downside. “Then you have yourself a deal, Mr…”

My name is not important. But you accept the terms, yes?

Geoff nodded with determination. “Yes.”

Suddenly, the prisoners that had been groaning about the lack of light fell silent, and Geoff felt an energy begin to fill his body.

“Holy shit. What the fuck?” Geoff heard the cell door swing open.

Try making fire.

Geoff held out his hand and a ball of fire appeared in it, lighting up the cell. He stepped out and turned down the hallway to the stairs. The prisoners were still silent. Geoff walked up a level and looked down the hallway. There were two guards laying on the ground. Geoff walked over to them and saw their glazed eyes. He felt for a pulse on both of them, and found none. “They're dead.” He looked in the cells and all the prisoners were on the ground, not moving. “Are they all dead?”

Keep moving towards the surface.

Geoff took a deep breath and kept moving, ignoring the fact that every person he came across was still. He reached the top of the stairs and walked down the hallway to the grand entryway. Moonlight shone through a window, and Geoff swore to himself as he emerged into the entryway. “The armor.”

You can fly.

“Wait, really?” Geoff lifted off his feet. “So now where do I go?”

Up. But I would take that helmet. Geoff looked over to a dead prisoner with a helmet to match the armor. He placed it over his head and found it to be a perfect fit. Now, up. Geoff rose slowly towards the ceiling. Command the stone to move. Geoff lifted his hand and a section of the ceiling exploded outwards, causing a large hole and even longer cracks, cracks that would slowly become the ruin of the building. Geoff rose through it to see the town, silent. A shadow was expanding outwards into the forest.

“What is that?” Geoff asked.

Command the sun to rise.

Geoff did just that, and the light of the sun replaced the moon. The grass surrounding the town was slowly turning brown, dying, and as the extent of the circle reached the trees, the leaves fell to the ground. Geoff looked down at the town to see people lying in the streets. “What is this?” He breathed, horrified.

This is our deal in action.

“What the fuck do you mean our deal in action?” Geoff asked in a panic.

The powers I have given you are comprised of the magics of life and order. I am simply draining this world of all life magic and giving it to you to wield.

Geoff’s eyes grew wide. “You're killing all these people?”

Yes. They are not of any use to me anymore.

Geoff stayed silent in shock.

Slowly this world will be dead wholly and completely. Let us go now.

“What? Go where?”

To nothingness.

The world around Geoff disappeared and was replaced by white. Everywhere Geoff looked there was nothing but white. “What the hell is this place?” He asked, terrified and confused.

The Nothing. The canvas for worlds that are, and worlds that will be. Float down to meet the endless waters. Geoff did just that, slowly, and the white slowly turned to blue. The water was completely calm, without even a ripple. You cannot create yet. I have only given you half of your powers. There is a world ahead of us. Straight ahead. Geoff floated forward, still reeling from the sight of his home dying. He saw something in the distance. At first it was a dot, and then it grew, slowly, into a towering bubble, containing a cross-section of a piece of land. There was a sky, the land, which contained a village, and under the land, a black expanse. Geoff reached his hand out to the surface of the bubble. Desist. You would die. Geoff stopped moving, his hand an inch from the glossy surface.

“Why are you showing me this?”

I am not showing you anything. This will be your supply of the magic of order. Geoff watched, first in confusion, and then in horror, as the material closest to the black expanse disintegrated, and he felt the energy entering his body again. The land fell away faster and faster as it reached the surface. The people in a nearby village disappeared as the decay reached the surface, destroying land and house alike, until Geoff was left staring at an empty orb, which exploded due to its now unnecessary existence. Geoff floated in silence for a minute.

“What did you do?”

I drained that world of the thing holding it together. Its order. All nonliving material is gone, therefore the world is gone.

“And did you kill all of those people too?” Geoff asked, his voice growing angry.

No. Though a world is not intelligent, the magic is. It sensed a danger to the people and sent all of them away.

“That's impossible.” Geoff breathed.

Nothing is impossible. As you have just witnessed.

“Then why didn't it send the people away when you started fucking killing them?”

Those people were not in any danger until it was too late. There is no point in trying to save something that is already dead. Magic is about efficiency.

“I should be rotting in a cell right now.” Geoff whispered.

You are a god now. You are free. As am I. Geoff began to shake his head.

“I’m not free. I think this armor is proof of that. I'm a prisoner. You made me a prisoner. I’m never going to create a world that I know would be made of so much pain.”

You will face isolation until the day you die.

“AND I DESERVE IT!” Geoff roared to The Nothing.

Then this is where I leave you. Maker.

Tears ran down Geoff's face. He curled into himself, floating above the water that never moved. He cried for years that felt like days. Alone. Alone, alone, alone. He deserved to be alone. He looked up one day in surprise. A smell. A smell, a smell, a smell. What was that smell? He didn't smell here. There was nothing to smell. It smelled like a person. No. No people. No. No, no, no. A green thing was floating towards him. Slowly. Upon seeing it, Geoff forgot all apprehension and sped towards it. A person. Geoff stopped a foot from the man dressed in a green. He seemed to be unconscious, and close to death. His scarf was flapping slowly beside him, and his hair was moving slowly. Geoff reached out to touch him. The second his hand touched the man’s arm, the man’s eyes flew open and he screamed, loud and terrified. He didn't move from his limp position. He just screamed. Geoff grabbed the man and held him tight. “Shhh. You're fine. You're fine. I'm not going to hurt you.” The man calmed down after much comforting from Geoff. Geoff placed the man across from him. “So, what's your name?”

The man frowned. “It's… Gavin. Free.” He had an accent. Geoff swallowed upon hearing his last name.

“Free?”

The man nodded. “Yes, I'm sure that's it. Who are you? Where are we?”

“Um, well, I'm Geoff. And we're nowhere. Literally nowhere. But where did you come from?”

Gavin frowned. “I can't remember. I can't remember anything. Why can't I remember. There's something there. But… I can't see it.” Tears came to his eyes, and Geoff grabbed him again, quickly.

“Don't cry, Gavin. I’ll protect you.” He took off his helmet and whispered to himself. “I’ll always keep you safe. Free.”

Chapter Text

            The Trickster led Gavin down a long hallway. Gavin was still mesmerized by the Trickster's face and how different it was from what he imagined. The Trickster didn't talk to Gavin until they reached a wooden door, one that looked familiar.

            “This is the door to the room I was in.” He said.

            The Trickster smiled back at him. “My room, Fool.” He reached out and turned the handle, swinging it open. The room was in pristine condition. They stepped inside and Gavin followed the Trickster to the corner. A man with a ponytail sat at the desk, sketching. He placed the paper on the stack and put the pen to the side. He stood up and turned. It was the Trickster. The Trickster next to Gavin leaned over. “I must warn you, I'm going to experience these emotions all over again. All of them. Anger, sadness, happiness. Love.” Gavin raised an eyebrow.

            “Love?” He asked in disbelief.

            The Trickster rolled his eyes. “Yes, Fool. Love. I felt it. Now watch.” Gavin noticed that the scene was frozen before it began moving again. The memory Trickster grabbed a leather bag from the bed and rushed out of the room, smiling. The scene changed to the town outside. The memory Trickster strode down the street, glaring at the people as he walked past them. People averted their eyes from him and got out of his way as he walked. The Trickster was smirking next to Gavin. “Trivial peasants.” He muttered.

            The scene changed again, this time showing a dock. Gavin didn't know that the town even had a dock. The memory Trickster pushed a man off the dock and into the water as he passed, laughing, and stepped onto the gangway of a galleon ship. The scene changed to what seemed to be a room on the inside of the ship. The memory Trickster was sat with his legs crossed on the ground, messing with his hands. “Nervous.” The Trickster whispered.

            Gavin frowned. “Why?”

            The door to the room opened and the memory stood and turned. Obviously the man that walked through wasn't who he was waiting for, and his shoulders slacked. “Warrior.” The memory said, eyes narrowed.

            “Hatred.” The Trickster growled.

            Gavin looked this new man up and down. The first thing that was most apparent was that he was the most physically fit human Gavin had ever seen. Tall, broad shoulders, long brown hair. His brown eyes held a sort of restrained rage, careful and practiced, and his mouth was fixed in a frown. “Trickster.” The man said with disdain. His voice was intimidating to say the least. “Nice of you to join us. Thought we were going to leave you.” He said, walking over to stand next to the memory Trickster, who glared at him.

            “Did you, Warrior? You would like that, would you?”

            The Warrior smirked. “Oh yes. Very much so. To lead the charge into this battle without your constant annoyance would have been a blessing.”

            The memory Trickster huffed and turned away. “I was working on a new design. A device that would make you obsolete, Warrior.”

            “And what would that be, Trickster?” The Warrior said with a threatening frown.

            “A device that would be able to fire arrows without any human input other than the push of a button.” The Trickster said, smirking when he saw the Warrior’s face twitch slightly. They stared each other down for a moment before the door started to open again, and they both snapped to attention. A smaller man with extremely pale skin and shoulder length black hair stepped through, and yet again the room relaxed. The man had a particularly average face, apart from the melancholy look that he had.

            “Hello.” He muttered to the two men. The Warrior bowed slightly.

            “Red One. I trust your search was successful.”

            The Red One dipped his head. “Aye. A ship is a good place for rats.” He pulled a ball of fur out of his pocket, and transferred it to his other hand when it bit his finger. “Blasted thing.” He hissed. He looked up. “I trust that you all do not mind.” He had an accent similar to Gavin’s, but thicker.

            The Warrior shook his head. “Of course not, Red. Please.” He said, gesturing to a barrel. The Red One walked over and hopped up onto it.

            The rat bit his hand again, and the Red One tilted his head and wrung his hands around its neck, breaking it. Gavin suppressed a gag. The Warrior and the Trickster looked at the door quickly, away from Red. Gavin watched in horror as Red held the dead rat in front of him and pulled out a small dagger. With quick precision, he slashed, and blood began slowly trickling out of the rat onto the floor. The Red One’s melancholy frown turned into a jovial, terrifying grin as he watched the blood run. 

            “Disgust.” The Trickster muttered.

            The Red One sat, smiling, mesmerized by the blood, as the door opened and two more men entered. One of the men was entirely inconspicuous, average height, build, and facial features. The only thing that was even remotely abnormal about his appearance was a five o’clock shadow. And yet he had an air of superiority about him that, judging from the lack of attentiveness of the other men to his presence, was misplaced.

            The other man, however, was the polar opposite of inconspicuous. Average height, yes, but that was where it ended. Long, wavy, black hair hung over a face that could have been seen as beautiful if not for the dark rings that underlined baby blue eyes that flicked around the room with predatory, almost depraved, inspection, and the mouth that was muttering unheard words almost incessantly. But his face was abnormally pretty, with strong cheekbones and a slender jaw. The Trickster next to Gavin shifted on his feet. “Fear.” Gavin nodded in agreement. Even if none of what was happening was real, the man was still terrifying. The Red One spoke without taking his eyes off of the blood.

            “Crazed. You look well.”

            The Crazed looked over, and did something that resembled a twitching smirk. “Thank you. Good to see you… smiling.” Gavin shivered at the voice. It wasn't natural, the way it sounded. It seemed like the man had once had a beautiful voice, now twisted into one that lingered on letters, paused on observations, and yet, still strangely charming, in an odd sort of way. The other man was frowning at the puddle of blood that the Red One was creating. He walked over and stood with his arms crossed.

            The Red One looked up at him and smirked. “Yes?”

            “What did I say about making a mess on the ship?” The man said, tapping his foot.

            “Well, I quite disagree with your use of the word mess. This is the nectar of life. The beautiful, shining life force of all living things. It deserves to be shown to the world.” The Red One said, voice reverent and careful. He looked up. “And anyway, you aren't the bloody boss, Heir, so I don't have to do a damn thing you say. Sod off.” He looked back at the blood, catching a few drops with his fingers and holding them up to his eyes, admiring the way the light glinted off the red. The Heir sneered and turned away, walking back over to the Trickster and the Warrior, who were watching with curious amusement.

            The Trickster smiled at him. “Aww, did the control freak get disobeyed again?” He teased. The Warrior rolled his eyes.

            “Such a child.” He muttered.

            The Red One snickered while the Heir growled. “You all should listen to me once in a while. I'm the second in command.”

            The Crazed chuckled. “Just because you're the second oldest doesn't mean that you're automatically the second in command.” The Heir’s face flushed while the Trickster laughed.

            “The psycho says something useful for once.” The Trickster said to the room. The Red One’s eyes widened and he looked over at The Crazed, who tilted his head and frowned.

            The Warrior saw this and leaned over. “Better watch yourself, Trickster.” The Trickster scowled at him and turned to watch the door again.

            Gavin frowned. “Hold on a bloody second.” The scene stopped. “What is with these bloody titles?”

            The Trickster frowned. “They are not titles. They are names.”

            Gavin frowned. “Really?”

            The Trickster nodded. “Yes. We earned them, really.”

            “Earned them from who?” Gavin asked.

            The Trickster smiled and flourished his hand back towards the scene, which began playing again.

            The door began to open yet again, and all five men fell into line, standing at attention. The man that entered the room earned a dropped jaw from Gavin and a sharp inhale from the Trickster next to him. He was, in simplest terms, gorgeous. Gavin felt insecure. He never felt insecure. He looked at the Trickster and saw the look of wonder on his face. The man was tan, with a warm smile and happy blue eyes. He walked up to the men in front of him. “At ease.” The men relaxed. He gave them a grin. “This is it, everyone. The last of our campaigns. They will fall to our power, whether they like it, or not.” The Warrior cleared his throat. The man tilted his head. “Yes, Warrior?”

            “First, excuse me for the interruption, but I assume this town has word of our approach.”

            The First nodded. “Yes, they will be expecting us. News of our glory has spread across the world. However,” He said, gaining a new tone of optimism. “I believe that this is nothing we cannot handle.” The men smiled back at the First, inspired by so few words. “But we must remember the protocol.” The First continued. “Those you fight with are both your allies and unaligned bystanders. You must strive to succeed for yourself before others, in my name. Those who need saving do not deserve to be saved. I did not train you all to be weak. I did not spend countless hours molding you into the men you are today to disappoint me. Is that clear?” The men nodded, exchanging glances of contempt and then resuming happy expressions when they looked back at the First. He saw this and smiled again. “Good men.” The Crazed stepped forward.

            “Sir, will there be prisoners taken on our part?” He asked nervously. The First thought for a moment.

            “No.” He decided finally. The Crazed smiled. “No prisoners. If they resist, kill them. No matter who they are.”

The Trickster sighed. “Of course you would ask that question, Crazed.” The Crazed snapped his gaze towards the Trickster with a snarl, and then he started forward, drawing his sword and grabbing the Trickster's collar.

“What does that mean, you insolent little prick?” The Crazed hissed. He felt a strong hand on his shoulder.

“Crazed, let him go.” The First said in a soothing voice. The Crazed shook his head. The First smiled at this, and then he leaned in close to the Crazed’s ear. “If you let him go, maybe tonight we can…” His voice trailed off into a deep whisper, and the Crazed's snarl slowly turned into a smile, until the First leaned back again.

“Sounds good to me.” He said, releasing the Trickster. “But only if you wear the collar I like.”

The First chuckled. “Of course. How could I forget?” He turned and put his hands around the Trickster's head and gave him a deeply caring gaze. “Are you alright?”

The Trickster smiled softly. “Yes. I am fine.” The First returned the smile.

“Good. I do not know what I would do if any of you got hurt.” The Trickster nodded and looked to the others, but the First turned his head back towards him. “Let me worry about them. They will certainly not worry about you. Is that clear?”

The Trickster nodded. “Of course.”

The First gave him a meaningful look and turned back to the others. “We should arrive by tomorrow morning. Until then, rest, train, anything you need to do.” The men fell into line and saluted.

“Yes sir.” They said in unison.

The First nodded. “Dismissed.” The men started to leave, until it was only the First, the Heir, and the Trickster. The First gave the Trickster a strong pat on the shoulder. “Can you leave me and the Heir to speak in private? We need to talk strategy.” The Heir shot the Trickster a smug look as the Trickster nodded, leaving the room, Gavin and the real Trickster following him. Gavin spoke to the real Trickster as they watched the memory walk aimlessly about the ship.

“What exactly is going on here?” Gavin asked, confused.

The Trickster smiled. “I suppose we have some time to kill. But it is a very long story.”

“I don't care. Just explain.” Gavin said, impatient.

The Trickster sat on the ground and Gavin did the same. “Well,” The Trickster began. “I suppose I should start at the beginning. When I was young, about three years old, my parents left. I am not going to go into specifics of why or when. But I wandered the streets for a while. And then, he found me. The First. He was only fourteen at the time, but he was ambitious. He wanted to be a king. A ruler. And he helped me. Trained me. He made me great. All of his life was devoted to us. He found all of us. He had known the Heir the longest. And then me, and then the Warrior, and then the Red One, all off the street, and then the Crazed a few years before what we are experiencing now. He trained us. He made us strong. Unstoppable. Great. And then one day, he made a discovery. An artifact. It let us return to life after death, once we bound ourselves to it. And we thought ourselves immortal. Obviously we were wrong, but that is beside the point for now. We found ourselves able to do whatever we wanted, no matter how dangerous, inconsequentially. That was when we began our conquest. Town after town fell under our rule. The villagers would either submit, or half of them would be killed. No rhyme or reason to that rule either. It did not matter who you were, I mean. If you were in that half, you died.” He stopped for a moment to chuckle, bringing Gavin out of his devoted attention. He noticed the memory Trickster begin moving towards a hammock. The real Trickster continued. “The day that we conquered that port town was the day that we conquered the whole of the continent. We began building the Black Fortress shortly after that. The First decided that the town would be a good launching point for our campaign across the ocean. And he was correct. Any ships that tried to attack were swiftly dealt with by one of my inventions, the Crazed's magic, or any number of things. We were eventually able to make our way across the ocean and begin to conquer once more.” The Trickster had a twinkle in his eye when he talked about their victories. “We conquered every village there, except for one, before we left. What you are watching is our journey to finish what we started.”

Gavin nodded. “I see. But, uh, what was that little… interaction between the First and the Crazed?”

The Trickster chuckled. “Oh. That. Well, let me just say that the First would do anything to make us happy. And the Crazed has some very particular tastes. So the First obliges without question. Lets the Crazed fuck someone and lets the First keep him satisfied. Even though the First is only attracted to women. It is a very strange relationship.” He muttered, almost to himself. Gavin nodded in agreement.

The Warrior and the Heir, who until now had been standing in the corner speaking in hushed tones, started to walk to the Trickster’s hammock. The Trickster noticed and sat up with wary eyes. “What do you two want?” He spat. The Heir sneered at him.

“Watch your tongue, Trickster. You do not speak to your betters that way.”

The Trickster gave a laugh of disbelief and stood up to face him. “I would hardly call either of you my betters. What makes you better than me?”

The Warrior pushed the Trickster away from the Heir. “Maybe if we talk first, you will realize what makes us better.” He said with a smirk. The Trickster clenched and unclenched his fists, and then he sat in his hammock again. The Warrior smiled. “Good boy. Now, Trickster, I am going to make this brief. During this battle, stay out of our way. Do not even try to fight.” The Trickster crossed his arms.

“Well, that is out of the question.”

The Heir leaned in. “I do not think it is. I am sure you remember why your name is what it is.” He reached up and slowly ran his finger along a small scar on the Trickster's face, and the memory flinched visibly. The Heir smiled. “Of course you do. But no one else does. No one except for you, me, and the First. I am sure you would not want anyone else to know about that little incident. And after that day, you cannot risk disappointing the First again, can you? No, you cannot. If you fight in this battle, the Warrior will make certain that you slip up and make an idiot of yourself. And I will tell everyone about that day. This is what makes us better than you. Do you understand?” He hissed. The Trickster nodded. The Heir spun around and walked away, the Warrior following him. The Trickster slowly moved back to lay in the hammock, obviously fighting back tears. The real Trickster was letting tears flow. Gavin looked between them.

“Trickster, what was the Heir talking about?” He asked slowly. The Trickster faintly shook his head.

“I do not remember. But it makes me scared, Fool. So very, very, scared.” He whispered. Gavin couldn't help but shiver. The memory Trickster appeared to have recovered, and as soon as he recovered, so did the real Trickster, who let out a deep breath. Then he groaned. “Oh, shit. Noise starts in three, two, one.” A cacophony of moaning echoed through the bowels of the ship, and Gavin felt his gag reflex triggering. The Trickster covered his ears and spoke again. “Do not worry. I block it out in three, two, one.” The noise stopped and Gavin relaxed.

“I assume that was-“

“Yes.” The Trickster said bluntly. “It was. Let us not talk about it anymore.” Gavin nodded quickly and the Trickster sat on the ground. “Please, sit.” He said, gesturing to the space across from him. Gavin frowned.

“Can't we just fast forward to the morning? Since it is your memory.”

The Trickster tilted his head and huffed. “I suppose.” The scene around them turned to a blur and colors changed rapidly. Then it stopped and the Trickster was getting out of bed. The Red One, who was already dressed and looked as if he had been up for hours, walked over and leaned to whisper in the Trickster's ear, though Gavin heard it loud and clear.

“I do hope that you are not considering defying the Warrior. That would not be very beneficial for you. But I suppose it would be a providence for me. I have always wanted to see how beautiful your blood is.” He kissed the Trickster's ear playfully, but the Trickster was visibly repulsed. The real Trickster paused to explain.

“That psychopath had always had an infatuation with me. Well, he was infatuated with all of us, but he only moved on me. He was disgusting.” Gavin made a grossed out look as the scene continued. The memory Trickster pulled away.

“Do not threaten me. Your blood sport will not be supplemented by my misfortune.” The Red One frowned.

“Maybe not. But soon. And I am sure it will voluntary, beauty.” He smirked and walked away, while the Trickster looked like he had seen a ghost. He quickly shook it off and dragged a case out from beneath his hammock. The real Trickster's breath hitched when he saw the case, and his eyes filled with anticipation. Gavin watched with interest as the memory undid the latches on the case. He opened the lid, and inside was the most amazing sword Gavin had ever seen. The memory picked it up, and admired the blade. It seemed to be made of rainbow, the way the metal was colored. Any color Gavin could think of was on that sword. “How did you make that?” Gavin breathed. The Trickster was just as breathless. “A method of smelting that involved imbuing lapis, emeralds, and redstone into a simple iron blade, creating an alloy I called spectrite. Absolutely breathtaking, and my most prized creation.” Gavin nodded in agreement. The blade was long, thin, tapered at the end, and looked to be sharper than a razor blade. The guard itself was odd, like one on a fencing sword, and the hilt was long and plain, with a red cloth woven around it. The memory sheathed the blade reluctantly, and he moved to the top of the ship, Gavin and the Trickster behind him. The rest of the men were already gathered there and the ship was approaching a stone wall. The First gazed at it with a determined longing.

“There it is, men. The only thing standing between us and total conquest.” He turned to face them. “Do not disappoint me.” The men saluted.

“Yes sir!” Was the excited reply. The First looked at the Crazed.

“If you will, Crazed.” The Crazed smiled and stepped forward, holding his hands in a circle near his chest. A vortex of red energy gathered in the space between them, and he pushed his hands in the direction of the wall. A ball traveled at lightning fast speed and hit with an explosion that created a large hole in the stone, big enough for the ship to fit through. Alarm bells began ringing, sounding distant. The ship began to speed up, and soon it was sliding through the breach in the wall. Guards gathered around the boat and pointed spears at them.

“Halt, Conquerors!” One guard yelled. “Surrender now and you may leave without injury.” The First shook his head.

“Actually, I am afraid that I am going to have to ask you the same.” He said with a charming smile. An arrow whizzed in from far off, and the First grabbed it without looking. “We both have our answers then.” He said with a tilt of his head. The Crazed lifted a finger and the guard that had dared to command the First raised into the air and started bending. And not how a human would normally bend. In fact, all of his joints bent in the exact opposite direction of how they were supposed to. Gavin threw up onto the deck of the ship, disturbed by the sight of the horribly contorted man. The guard screamed for a second before dying, and his body fell to the ground. The rest of the guards were silent, and then one of them charged, followed by the rest of them. The Warrior smiled and hefted a war hammer, smashing guards left and right. The Red One was wielding daggers, slashing with precision, and the Heir used a diamond pickaxe, which was a strange choice of weapon. The Crazed was still using magic, blasting guards, and the Trickster, pulling out his blade, twisted and spun swaths through the mob of guards. The Warrior and the Heir exchanged glances when they saw him, and nodded at each other. The Warrior made his way behind the Trickster, staying behind him as he moved. He pulled out a bottle that was glowing red, and he hefted it at a nearby building. The bottle broke into a blaze of fire, and the building began burning. The First traced the path of the bottle back to the Trickster, and he grew furious. The fire was spreading to adjacent buildings, causing a great inferno throughout the city in a matter of minutes. “Trickster!” The First yelled, with nothing but malice. “What a foolish thing to do!” The Trickster looked at him in confusion, only to see an arrow fly through the air and land in the First’s shoulder, who cursed and let out a shout. The Trickster followed the arrow to a faraway archer, and he was filled with a homicidal rage. He broke into a sprint, the First yelling after him. The archer, seeing his approach, panicked, running into a building that was engulfed in flames. The Trickster followed him, hacking at guards with his blade as he went. He ran into the building, and he found the archer looking at a wall, searching for a way out. The Trickster smiled wide and went in for the kill. The man didn't even have time to scream. The Trickster turned and prepared to leave the building, when he heard a creaking under his feet. He looked down, and the wood gave way, the onslaught of the flames having spread to the supports that held the floor above the cellar. The Trickster shook himself out of a daze, and he felt a sharp pain shoot through his leg. He looked to see that it was crushed under a large beam of wood. On the ledge above, his sword was laid with its hilt hanging off slightly. The Trickster began to panic, clawing at the beam, attempting to move it, but it was no use. He began to scream for help. He screamed for about an hour in the burning building, trying to be louder than the screams of terror of the citizens, but no one came, until the only sound he could hear was the sound of fire, and the roof groaning and creaking overhead. He screamed for help again, and the Red One’s face appeared over the edge. “Ah, there you are.” He turned his head. “I found him!” The rest of the men appeared, the last of which being the First. Upon seeing the First, the Trickster let out a sigh of relief.

“First! Help me out of here!” He yelled up with a smile. The First stared down at him with cold eyes, stopping the men that were moving to the stairs that led down. The Trickster frowned, confused. “First?”

The First spoke, and his voice sent shivers through Gavin. The real Trickster was silent, staring at the scene. “Are you asking for my help, Trickster?” The Trickster nodded fervently.

“Yes! I need you to get me out of here!”

The First tilted his head. “Surely you remember the protocol. Those who must ask to be saved do not deserve saving.” He sighed. “Oh, Trickster. I am so… disappointed in you.” The face of the Trickster, both in the memory and next to Gavin, turned to one of shocked despair. His greatest fear had been realized. The First noticed his sword on the ground, and he picked it up, eyeing it with an emotionless stare. “Oh, Trickster, it is such a shame, really. I had always loved you.” He looked up with his eyes full of hatred now, meeting the Trickster's tear filled ones. “I break you from the artifact.” He snapped the sword over his knee, and the Trickster let out a shout of agony. The First threw the pieces to lie down next to the Trickster, and the Trickster's face contorted into one of pure rage.

“I WILL DESTROY YOU ALL!” He screamed up at them. The First shook his head and clicked his tongue.

“Now, Edward, how will you do that if you perish?”

The Trickster's eyes went wide. “That is not my name anymore. That is not my name, and I will find a way.”

The First shook his head. “No, you will not. You made this fire. Now burn in it.” He turned and walked away, the rest of the men following him, not looking back. The Trickster began screaming in rage, thrashing around with all of his might as the ceiling above him finally gave way.

The scene disappeared and was replaced with a blackness. Gavin saw that the Trickster was curled up on the ground, crying. “He bred me for greatness. He bred me for greatness.” He repeated over and over again, his mantra as he sat on the ground, angry, and sad, and scared. Gavin saw the door they came in across the expanse, and he picked the Trickster up into his arms to the best of his ability, carrying him. A part of him hated the Trickster more, knowing what he’d done. Yet, another part of him pitied the man in his arms. He didn't know the reason. But he really didn't care right now. He knew more. That was all that mattered. He pulled open the door with some difficulty and walked back down the hallway. He sat the Trickster on the ground, and the room started to shake around him, signifying that he was waking up. Gavin looked down at the Trickster one last time before everything started to wither away again.

Chapter Text

            After Geoff finished his story, Michael had to stand up and walk around.

            “Wow, Geoff.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “That's some heavy stuff. But what makes you think that what you did is the reason for what happened to Gavin?”

            Geoff sighed. “Well, the voice said that it would return through a ritual of sorts. Would you call what we did to make the Tower a ritual?”

            Michael thought about this for a moment. “I suppose so. And, you think that this… thing... voice… whatever, you think that it's the reason Gavin did all of that?”

            Geoff nodded. “That's what I think, yeah. But I don't know why it would choose Gavin instead of me, or why it would wait so long. Plus, I assumed when the voice came back it would have some kind of physical form, because that's what it made it sound like.” He crossed his arms. “I don't know, man.”

            Michael looked at the door for a moment, and then he frowned. “Wait a minute. You told the voice that you would never create using the powers it gave you. What made you change your mind?”

            Geoff chuckled and shook his head. “Gavin. He was, uh, lonely. We’d been floating for about one hundred years at this point, time flows differently in The Nothing, and Gavin asked me about creating a world. I objected, at first, but then he started to be really despairing, so I had no choice after a while.”

            Michael gave a small smile. “You really cared about him.”

            Geoff nodded. “He was all I had to care for. Lost, afraid. I couldn't just leave him, you know?”

            Michael remembered Gavin staring up at the stars, partial fear in his eyes, slowly bleeding out. “Y-yeah, I know what you mean.” He was starting to get choked up.

            Geoff stood up and walked to the door, getting the attention of the guard posted outside. “Hey, we wanna talk to Ryan.” Michael frowned.

            “We do?”

            “Yes.” Geoff said, nodding. “Shut up and let me handle this.” He whispered in addition. Michael growled slightly.

            “Fine.”

            The guard finally replied, managing to get a word in. “Sir, I'm afraid that the King hasn't the time to talk to prisoners.” Geoff grabbed the bars in the window and shook them.

            “Prisoner? I was the King of this place once!”

            Michael frowned. “Geoff, you should leave the killing to me.”

            Geoff scowled. “Who said anything about killing? Now shush.” He turned back to the guard. “We demand an audience with King Ryan.”

            The guard grumbled. “Alright, if you insist. I’ll fetch him.” The guard moved away down the hall. Geoff sighed and looked around the cell.

            “This is ridiculous.” He huffed. “You agree that this is ridiculous, right?”

            Michael nodded. “But then again, you did kidnap me.”

            Geoff frowned. “That was to protect you!”

            “From what?” Michael exclaimed. “Prison walls? Good job there!” He punched the wall in frustration.

            “Well, if you’d just done what I said and stayed in your room, I wouldn't have had to kidnap you!” Geoff yelled.

            Michael's eyes got wide. “Oh, so this is my fault? Because you were keeping a secret?”

            “You didn't need to know!”

            “Because you didn't remember!”

            “Because I tried to forget!”

            There was a knock on the door, and the two men stopped yelling at each other. Ryan's face appeared in the barred window. “Can I come in?” He asked with a smile. “Oh, who am I kidding, of course I can.” He swung the door open and stepped inside. “Hello, boys.” He still had that smile.

            Geoff got right to the point. “Ryan, let us go.”

            Ryan frowned. “Oh, no, no, no, Geoff, how can you expect to learn your lesson if I just let you go?”

            Geoff sighed and decided to humor him. “What lesson, Ryan?”

            Ryan giggled. “Well, I can't just tell you what the lesson is! That would ruin the fun!”

            Michael growled. “You’ve fucking lost it again, haven't you?” Ryan started to have a laughing fit. “Oh, yeah, you have.” Michael sighed.

            Ryan stopped suddenly and held up his hand. The chains around Michael's wrists began glowing red, heating up, and Michael shook them, trying to cool them down. “I would appreciate it if you didn't insult my sanity. Especially since I’ve been practicing my magic again.” He lowered his hand and the chains returned to normal. Michael rubbed his wrists and Ryan smiled. “Speaking of which, I’ve learned some new spells. Wanna see ‘em?” Without an answer he moved his finger in a swirling motion, and a strong wind began to blow throughout the cell, howling. Michael and Geoff just barely managed to stay on their feet. Ryan laughed and lost focus, and the wind stopped. He regained his composure and began to rub his hands together, and then he pulled them apart and blew into the space. A tiny cloud formed out of nowhere, and Ryan guided it around, moving through Geoff and Michael's heads, getting them wet with water vapor. Ryan was giddy. “Weather spells are so much fun. And they're not as messy as the stuff I did to Kerry, the poor idiot.” Michael got down in a stance like he was ready to pounce.

            “That was a fucked up thing you did, Ryan, and you know it.” He muttered. Ryan rolled his eyes.

            “Oh, Mikey, don't be so droll. I'm trying to entertain you people.” He smirked and held a finger to his nose. “But then again, I can't show all my tricks.” The door opened behind him and he rubbed his finger across his nose like he was lighting a match. Electric sparks flew into the air, and Ryan bowed, flourishing dramatically. “Sneak preview.” He whispered, wiggling his fingers and backing out of the cell, still bowed. The door slammed shut and Ryan walked away, laughing at the top of his lungs. And then, he stopped. He stopped laughing, stopped moving, stopped everything. “Hey, what the fuck did I say about talking! Shut the fuck up!” He roared suddenly, banging his fist on a metal door somewhere out of sight. Geoff pressed his ear to the door. What he heard made his skin turn white. He stood up and turned around, eyes wide with fear.

            Michael felt a sense of dread. “Geoff? What is it? Did you hear something?” Geoff nodded. “Well, what was it?”

            Geoff took a shaky breath. “Cows.”

            Michael's eyes grew three sizes. “Cows? Are you sure?”

            Geoff nodded. “Cows. Lots and lots of cows.” He slid down the wall, rubbing his eyes. “We are so fucked.”

 

            Ryan walked into the dining room where he knew Jack and Ray would be. Ray stood up. “Ryan, where’s Geoff?”

            Ryan smiled at him. “We found Michael.”

            Jack stood up, smiling. “Great! Where is he?”

            Ryan pointed at the both of them. “I can answer both of your questions right now. Dungeon.” Ray frowned.

            “What do you mean dungeon?”

            Ryan waved his hand. “Oh, Geoff kidnapped Michael, and Michael broke his confinement.” Ray looked outraged.

            “So you put them in the dungeon?” He yelled.

            Ryan shook his head as if recovering from being yelled at. “Inside voice, Ray, please. And yeah, I did. They both committed crimes.”

            Jack didn't say anything, just watched. “They're our friends!” Ray exclaimed.

            Ryan shrugged. “They’re prisoners first and foremost.”

            Ray stalked up to face Ryan. “I could make you bleed if you don't let them go.” Ryan flicked his hand and Ray was pushed backwards into a chair. Jack stepped forward quickly.

            “Ryan, don’t do anything rash.” He said in a calm voice, attempting to get Ryan out of his fury. Ryan looked at him and scowled.

            “He threatened me, I can do what I want.” He growled. Jack nodded slowly.

            “That's true, but do you really want to hurt him? Is that the best thing to do?”

            Ryan looked back at Ray, who was scared of making any sudden movements. “I suppose not.” He growled. “But never threaten me again.” He turned and left the room with a flourish of his cape.

Ray stood up. “I fucking told you, Jack! I told you, and you didn’t believe me! He’s fucking lost it again!”

Jack sighed. “You were right. I had too much faith in him. He just can’t handle the power, I guess.”

“Well, you wouldn’t know anything about that.” Ray grumbled.

Jack raised an eyebrow. “What?”

Ray shook his head. “Nothing. I just said that you're probably right. Or he’s just a psychopath. Either way, we can't just let him keep going like this.”

Jack nodded. “But it doesn't seem like he plans on having his competition any time soon. And once that starts, he’ll be even more powerful. Not to mention that he’ll guard the crown with his life.”

Ray groaned. “There’s nothing we can do then.”

Jack shrugged. “The only thing I can think of is breaking Michael and Geoff out of the dungeon, but that’s close to impos-“

“Let’s do it.” Ray interjected.

Jack frowned. “What? We can't just do that. It would take planning, potions, bribes, a key. We can't just wing it.”

Ray got a thoughtful look on his face. “Well, I can brew the invisibility potions, those are easy enough, and I have enough money to bribe guards. It really shouldn't be too hard. Plus, if we get caught, that would just be all four of us in the same place. Four heads are better than two.”

Jack sighed. “Okay, fine. I’ll humor you.”

Ray smiled. “Good. How about day after tomorrow?”

Jack nodded. “That's fine.” Ray left to begin brewing the potions, and Jack sat in the dining room for a while longer. Finally, he got up and exhaled. “If I was in charge…” He shook his head and left the dining room empty.

 

Gavin's eyes fluttered open to meet Kdin’s. Kdin sighed. “Oh thank fuck.” He muttered. He yelled towards the door. “Caleb, he's awake!” Caleb walked in.

“Good to hear. You gave Kdin and the other two quite a scare, Gavin. Rushed you back here as quick as they could.” He said while he fiddled with a machine.

Gavin groaned as he sat up, the arrow creaking slightly. “I can explain that.” This was against his better judgement, but now they knew something was wrong. “I need to tell you something, Kdin.” Kdin raised an eyebrow. “You may have been… somewhat… correct… when you accused me of talking to someone that wasn't there.” Kdin smirked.

“First of all, Caleb, you owe me three gold, and second of all, GAVIN WHAT THE FUCK?” He launched out of his chair. “Why the fuck didn't you just tell the truth?”

Gavin recoiled in surprise. “Well, cause, it's not like you think.”

Kdin made a face of disbelief. “What do you mean, it's not like I think?”

Gavin sighed. “Because, there's an actual person up there.” He tapped his temple.

Kdin rolled his eyes. “And what does that mean?”

Gavin sat up again. “He has a name. And memories, and a face, and he's trapped.”

Kdin's hands went up. “No, okay, no, I’m not going to believe that you have another person living inside you.” He got up to leave.

“The endermen can hear him.” Gavin blurted out. Kdin froze with his hand on the doorknob.

“What?” He said in a strange voice.

“The endermen can hear him. Dan the enderman almost freaked out when he heard him.” Gavin said in a smug voice, glad to have stopped Kdin in his tracks. Kdin whirled around so fast that Caleb dropped his clipboard in surprise.

“Like, the voice in your head?” Gavin nodded, and he sighed. “Okay, I'll bite. Where is this voice from?”

“Edward.” Gavin said suddenly, not meaning to put a name to him, and certainly not that one. “The voice’s name is Edward. And he lived in that world we were just in. I passed out in his room, actually. He was one of the Conquerors, along with five other blokes.”

Kdin furrowed his brow. “But that means he was connected to the artifact.”

Gavin nodded. “Yep. He was. But the leader basically killed him when he disappointed him.”

Kdin took a deep breath. “Okay, I'm going back there. If there's anything else that can help us, I need to find it.”

Something clicked in Gavin’s head. “Check the rest of the bedrooms.” He said, remembering the Crazed’s penchant for magic. Kdin nodded slowly and left. Caleb stayed to fiddle with his machines some more, trying not to look at Gavin. Gavin remembered what he’d heard when he went to visit Kdin in his office. He bit his lip before grabbing Caleb’s wrist and bringing a finger to his lips. He brought it down and took a deep breath.

“Caleb, what do you know about me staying in the End?”

Caleb slid free of Gavin’s hand slowly. “Didn't Lindsay say something about a healing process or something?”

Gavin read Caleb’s face, and made a decision. “Uh, what if I told you that was a lie?”

Caleb raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

Gavin sighed. “Like, I don’t really need to stay here. I could go back to the guys and nothing would go wrong. That the whole moving past the grieving is bullshit.”

Caleb shifted on his feet. “Gavin, why would Lindsay lie about that?”

“Cause Kdin told her to.”

Caleb huffed. “You aren't making any sense, Gavin.”

“Look, Caleb. Kdin is keeping me here. He's trying to stall me leaving. I overheard him talking to someone.”

Caleb frowned and his eyes narrowed. “Are you sure?”

Gavin nodded. “I’m positive!”

.Caleb sighed. “For some reason I don't entirely believe you.”

Gavin sighed. “Is it because I have person in my head?”

Caleb shrugged. “Maybe.”

Gavin groaned in frustration. “Okay, look. You’ve treated Kdin before, right?”

 Caleb nodded slowly. “Yeah, a couple times. But it’s not that dangerous here.”

“Are there any injuries that still bother him?”

Caleb frowned. “I don’t think I should tell you that. Doctor patient confidentiality and all.”

Gavin rubbed his forehead. “Okay, how can I convince you?”

Caleb shrugged. “Look Gavin, I want to believe you, I really do, but Kdin is a good guy. I mean, sure, he's cold at times, and he can turn into a dragon, but he cares deep down. And he wouldn’t lie to you to keep you here.”

Gavin sighed. “What if he was being paid? Dragons like money.”

Caleb frowned. “Uh… well… he does have an obsession with wealth…”

“So if he was paid to keep me here, would he do it?” Gavin asked with a raised eyebrow.

Caleb frowned. “I mean, when you put it like that, yeah. To an extent.”

Gavin nodded. “So will you help me?”

Caleb shook his head. “I can't, Gavin. Even if you’re right, Kdin is my friend. He’s done a lot for us here. I won’t tell him about this conversation, but I can’t do anything to help you. I owe him too much.” He walked to the door, and Gavin let out a loud groan. As Caleb put his hand on the doorknob, he stopped, not turning around. “But if the time comes, and you happened to strike his left ankle, you wouldn't be worse off for it.” He left the room quickly, and Gavin laid back down.

He looked at the ceiling. “Uh, Edward?” He muttered. There was no response for a moment.

“Yes?” Came the reply, finally. The voice was strangled, hoarse, and rough, and it sounded sad.

“Are you okay?” Gavin asked.

“I am fine.” He replied. “I am just a little shaken is all.”

“Do you remember anything else?”

“No, not entirely. There are fuzzy spots, but I do not remember it all clearly. Fool, I do not want to be here anymore. I want to rest.”

Gavin sighed, partially saddened by the despair in the voice. “I know. I want the same. But we’ll figure it out.”

“I hope so. I do not know how much longer I can keep my mind in order.”

Gavin closed his eyes. “Just hang in there.”

“I have been hanging for quite a while, Fool.”

Gavin nodded solemnly and fell asleep again.

 

Kdin knocked down the door to the final bedroom in the castle. There were six in total, just like Gavin said. This room was a mess. Things were scattered on the floor; food, weapons, pieces of clothing, all of it rotten and decayed. Kdin looked around the room for a journal or papers. A glint of metal caught his eye. He dug a box out of a pile of dirt, which was out of place on the second story of a building, but he didn't worry about that. He opened the box to reveal journals. His eyes sparkled. “There we go.” He pulled out the top one and opened it up. Evidently the box protected the journals from age, because the pages were pristine. But his jaw dropped upon trying to read it. The handwriting was illegible. Entirely chicken scratch. And Kdin’s handwriting was pretty awful, he knew that, but this was something else. He closed the box with a groan. And then he had an idea. It was a long shot. But it just might work. He opened a portal and put the box through it. This was going to be so simple.

 

Kdin came back into Gavin’s room two hours later, carrying a large box. Gavin eyed it apprehensively.

“Is that the research?”

Kdin set the box down at the foot of Gavin's bed. “Yep. But we have a problem.” He pulled out a journal and handed it to Gavin. Gavin opened it up.

“Oh. Who the hell writes like this?” Gavin asked as he stared at the handwriting.

Kdin shook his head. “Someone with a trashed room. But I think you can help. Or, at least, your little brain friend can help.”

Gavin drew back with narrowed eyes. “What do you mean? And why can't you just use some spell to make it readable?”

Kdin sighed. “I tried that. But the pages are lined with silver.” Gavin returned a blank stare. Kdin rolled his eyes. “Silver is resistant to magic, remember? And if you’re telling the truth when you say that the person in your head is a real person, and he really lived with whoever wrote these journals, I think that he might be able to read them.” Gavin stared at him, and Kdin crossed his arms and tapped his foot. “So do you think you could ask him, maybe?” Gavin started.

“Oh, yeah. Uh, Edward?”

“Yes?”

“We have the Crazed’s journals here.”

“So?”

Gavin saw the look of intrigue on Kdin’s face. “Can you read it?”

Edward sighed. “Let me see it.” Gavin held the page up to his eyes. Edward made a few frustrated noises. “No, I cannot. I cannot remember reading it. But… hmm…”

“What?”

“I can remember having to transcribe this for the others. I did that countless times. I may be able to do it by muscle memory.”

Gavin frowned. “How does that work?”

Kdin leaned in. “What is he saying?” Gavin shushed him.

Edward replied. “I have attempted to sign my name, and I was able to do it without much thought. So it follows that the rest of my muscle memory is intact. I vaguely remember the First asking me to create thirty copies of each of these journals. I, as foolish as I was, did it, of course. This research was done before we traveled across the ocean, of course.” Gavin nodded.

“But you don’t have any body parts.” He pointed out.

Edward sighed. “Yes, I suppose not. Unless…”

“Unless what?”

“Unless your golem hand is susceptible to my influence.”

Gavin brought the robotic hand up to his face. “Do you think that could work?”

“How should I know? I am no expert on golems.”

Gavin dropped the hand. “Kdin, I need to see Matt.”

Kdin nodded without much of a second thought and opened a portal, much to Caleb’s chagrin.

 

 Matt read through his books on golems while Gavin and Kdin waited patiently.

He turned to them after closing his biggest book. “Okay, so it is totally possible for an outside force to control a golem construct. But it requires almost total focus.”

Gavin raised an eyebrow. “Does muscle memory take too much focus?” Matt shook his head. “Okay then. Edward, you can try now.”

“Alright, Fool.”

Gavin sat down and placed his hand on one of Matt’s tables. “Try just moving a finger first. I don’t want you breaking my hand.”

“Alright.”

Gavin watched his hand closely, not trying to control it in any way. After about five minutes, a finger twitched.

“You did it!” Gavin said. His hand slowly formed into a thumbs up. He turned to Kdin. “Get me some paper.”

Chapter Text

            The head guard knocked on Ryan's quarters. Permission to enter came from within, and he opened the door to see the King holding a small dark cloud between his hands. He looked up. “Oh, it's my favorite head guard. What was your name again? Thomas? Tucker?”

            The head guard shook his head. “It's Trevor, sir.”

            Ryan smiled. “Of course it is. What do you want?”

            Trevor looked at his note. “Well, sir, it has come to my attention that you're keeping a large number of cows in the dungeons, and I was just wondering why. Those cells could be put to a much better use, and we have a place for cows at the farm.”

            Ryan sighed and dissipated the cloud, getting to his feet. “I’m sorry, are you the King?”

            Trevor’s eyes widened. “N-no, sir, I was merely suggesting-“

            Ryan held up his hand, and Trevor fell silent. “Let me make a suggestion. Shut up. Don't tell me how to do my job.”

            Trevor nodded quickly. “Yes sir, sorry sir. Forgive me.” He paused, and Ryan rolled his eyes.

            “Out with it.”

            Trevor nodded. “Yes sir, I was just curious. This is not me telling you what to do with the cows, but I was just wondering why you felt the need to put them in the dungeon in the first place.”

            Ryan rolled his eyes. “I can't hear them down there, of course.”

            Trevor frowned. “Hear them, sir?”

            Ryan nodded. “Yeah, hear them. Mocking me. Yelling at me. I can hear them in the forest at night. Jeering at me. Sometimes they'll stand outside my window while I'm trying to sleep. Keep me awake with their constant chattering. It's almost maddening.”

            “Almost?” Trevor whispered under his breath.

            Ryan continued. “So I put them in the dungeon. It muffles their noise, but not enough. And they just never shut up!” He was getting aggravated. “It's Edgar all over again! Telling me that I can't be a good King, that no one will do what I say, I’m just a failure, why do I even try, shut up, shut up, shut up!” He yelled, clutching his head in his hands and screwing his eyes shut.

            Trevor started to back towards the door slowly. “Sir, I shall just leave you to your work…“ He was stopped by the knife in his forehead. Ryan lowered his arm.

            “But you’ll shut up, won't you Trevor?” He said with a small frown. He retrieved the knife and sat down again, resuming his practice.

 

            After five hours of work, Gavin and Edward finally finished transcribing the journals. Kdin quickly took them, said a thank you, and hurried out of the room. Gavin looked to where Matt was reading a large book. He heard Edward.

            “Fool, do not do what I think you are about to do.”

            Gavin muttered under his breath. “I have to. We have to get out of here.”

            “Why?”

            “I need to see my family. Maybe they can help you.”

            “I do not see how they can have more expertise than the people here.”

            “They aren't lying to me.”

            Edward sighed in frustration. “Fine, do what you will.”

            Gavin stood up and walked over to Matt. “Uh, Matt.”

            Matt closed his book. “What?”

            Gavin took a deep breath. “What do you know about Lindsay and Kdin's plot to keep me here instead of letting me go to the over world?”

            Matt looked at him, tilted his head, and set his book down with a sigh. “Yeah, okay, what? I don't know what you're talking about.”

            Gavin groaned. “I need you to help me leave!”

            Matt sighed. “Didn't Kdin say that it would be bad if you left?”

            Gavin nodded. “But he's lying.”

            Matt stared at Gavin for a second, and then he shrugged. “Okay, I'll help you.”

            Gavin stared at him in surprise, the reaction different from Caleb’s. “Wait, what?”

            Matt shrugged. “If you're telling the truth, it's just another way to make Kdin mad. Jeremy will help too, don't worry.”

            Gavin stared at him in disbelief. “Okay?”

            Matt looked bored. “What are you going to do now? You know, for your great escape.”

            Gavin sighed. “I think I need to go talk to Lindsay. Try to reason with her.” Matt smiled.

            “You really think you can do that? It's not easy.”

            Gavin shrugged. “It's worth a try.”

            Matt chuckled. “Alright Gavin, if you say so.”

            Gavin left Matt to his work and stepped out into the End, with its strange stars that Gavin knew couldn't possibly be stars, and he started forward, spying Lindsay’s house across the way.

 

            Roy, admittedly, had some prescription grade abandonment issues. When his father left that morning so long ago and it became apparent later in the week that he wasn't coming back anytime soon, Roy had cried. A lot. For a fifteen year old. So when Michael left him alone again, he felt even worse than before. Surely if Michael had succeeded, he would have stopped by to say hello to Roy and ask for directions. Roy looked around his small cabin. If Michael was at the castle, if they had found him, the least he could do was see if he was okay. He grabbed some bread in case he got peckish, put on his wide brimmed straw hat in case it rained, and went out, heading towards town. The path from his cabin to the road went through a rather dark spot, and every time he walked through this particular section, it took everything he had in him not to break into a sprint. Before Lord Gavin's death, he would have had to worry about creepers, which don't burn in the sun, but since then, not one creeper had been seen. One would think that this would be a time for the townspeople to relax in knowing that their houses were safe. But that was not the case. Instead, people were uneasy, expecting an organized army of creepers to come out of the ground, or something like that. Creatures of destruction should never be quiet. But as he walked through the shaded path, he still felt eyes on him, and he heard squeaking noises. Endermen. His father had taught him about Endermen. They weren't hostile, pleasant, even, as long as you didn't look at them. So Roy kept his eyes to the ground, adjusted his bag on his shoulder, and ignored the sounds of teleportation and squeaking. He arrived at the road and reached the castle by five o’clock. He knocked on the door only to be greeted by a guard who told him that Lord Michael was safe, and that he should go home. Roy persisted, demanding to see Lord Michael, as they were dear friends. The guard frowned and ushered him inside, checking him for weapons and other methods of assassination. Roy was placed in a small room with a table and a chair, and the door was, unbeknownst to Roy, locked. The guard rushed to tell King Ryan that someone had come looking for Lord Michael as he had been told to do, and was quickly told that he should leave the boy to starve.

             

            Gavin knocked on the door to Lindsay’s house, and Lindsay opened it with a smile. “I know, Lindsay.” Was all Gavin had to say. The smile was replaced with a worried look and she pulled him inside.

            Lindsay put him in one chair and sat across from him. “How?”

            Gavin shook his head. “That's not important. Let me leave.”

            Lindsay closed her eyes and sighed. “It's not that easy, Gavin.”

            Gavin looked amused. “Why, because your employer hasn't paid you yet?”

            Lindsay’s mouth knit into a tight frown. “You don't know what you're talking about.”

            Gavin laughed at this. “I know that you and Kdin lied to me. Kept me from my friends. My family. My home. Why would you do this to me, Lindsay? How much am I worth? How much is your husband’s best friend worth?” His lip began to quiver.

            Lindsay’s hair started smoldering. “More than what we were paid.”

            Gavin smiled. “So you admit it!” He leaned back with a frown. “Wait. More than what they paid you? Who the hell is paying you that you’d do it for less than what you wanted?”

            Lindsay shook her head. “I can't tell you that, Gavin. You wouldn't understand.”

            Gavin tensed up. “What, you think I won't be able to comprehend some huge conspiracy? I can do a lot more than you believe.”

            Lindsay nodded. “I know that.”

            “Then tell me.”

            “No.”

            They stared each other down, eyes piercing with determination. Gavin repeated himself. “Tell me.”

            Wisps of fire were coming off of Lindsay now. “I can't.”

            “Why not?”

            “You’ll shatter.”

            Gavin clutched the arm of his chair. “I'm not made of glass.”

            Lindsay frowned. “I didn't say that. But this is for your own good, Gavin.”

            Gavin narrowed his eyes. “What do you know about what's good for me?” Lindsay’s hair began to float slightly. “You don't know shit! You're keeping me here like a prisoner!” He gripped the arrow in his chest. “You made me a freakish ghoul!” He held up his metal hand. “I didn't ask for this! I didn't ask for you selfish pricks to bring me back only to lock me up!”

            Lindsay’s eyes flared red. “Selfish? How are we selfish? We saved you! We're helping you get that thing out of your head! How are we-“

            “You keep it all to yourself!” Gavin cried. “You have Matt, who can make anything with redstone, Caleb, the best doctor in the world, Jeremy, the best alchemist in the world, and they're here! Not in the real world! Here! You're collecting a set!” Lindsay stood up.

            “Be quiet! You don't know what you're talking about!”

            Gavin stood up to face her. “Oh, yeah? I don't know what I'm talking about? I know that your husband probably won't be too happy with you keeping his best friend locked up! What kind of wife are you to keep me away from him?”

            “A good one!” Lindsay yelled, exploding into flames. Gavin fell back into his chair and stared at her.

            “What do you mean? You think he's better off without me? You think I’m a danger to him?” Gavin asked in a quiet voice.

            Lindsay sighed, and the flames extinguished.  “Gavin, that's not what I meant.”

            Gavin stood up with a gloomy face. “I don't care. And I’m sorry.” He picked up the chair he was sitting in and swung, breaking it on her head. She fell to the floor, and he threw the pieces of the chair aside. He felt her pulse. Still alive. Still breathing. Just unconscious. He looked around for gauze and found some in a cupboard. He wrapped it around her head with some cotton to stop the small amount of bleeding before walking outside.  He saw Kdin's house. He was leaving. Today. But he would get some answers first.

 

Ray finished paying the last guard for silence. He had been doing the same thing all day. Track down a person he’d never met before, pay them, and move on. It was tedium to the most stressful degree. Not to mention the fact that he had been avoiding Ryan the entire time. If they were going to rescue Geoff and Michael, he needed to make sure that the guards wouldn't sound the alarm if they were seen. Ray was stealthy. He was thin, small, and light on his feet. Jack, however, was not. He was big, loud, and heavy footed. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing, of course. Just not optimal. Ray checked his watch. The sun would be going down soon. He looked around. He had come to a part of the castle he rarely visited to find the last guard on the schedule. Mostly spare rooms, save for a couple used for storage of furniture. Ray assumed that the rooms were meant for any family that the six of them, or rather, Ray remembered with a sad frown, the five of them, might start in the future. He looked through the rooms at his leisure. He was supposed to meet Jack at nine o’clock, so he certainly had time. He pulled the handle on one door, and found it was locked. He frowned and started to walk away.

            “Hey, is someone there?” A voice called out from behind the door. Ray turned and looked at it.

            “Wait, is someone in there?” He asked quietly.

            “Yeah, hello, let me out of here already! If I can't see Lord Michael, just tell me, because I’m getting hungry, and I already ate all my bread!” Ray frowned and unlocked the door, watching for guards. He opened it to a familiar face.

            “Wait a minute, you're that kid from town! You asked about the dye shop.” He said in surprise. The kid nodded.

            “Yeah, who are you?”

            Ray scoffed. “I'm Lord Ray. Who are you?”

            The kid went pale. “Oh, excuse me sir, I meant no disrespect. I am Roy, sir.” He bowed.

            Ray rolled his eyes. “No need for that.” Roy straightened up. “Why the hell were you locked in this room?”

            Roy shrugged. “I came to the castle because I was looking for Lord Michael. I let him stay at my house for the past couple days, and I was worried when he didn't come back from Lord Geoff's house.”

            Ray sighed. “Okay, well, he's in the dungeon, along with Lord Geoff.”

            Roy’s eyes went wide. “What? We need to save them!”

            Ray nodded. “Yeah, Lord Jack and I are already working on that, don't worry. But we need to get you home first. It's not safe.”

            Roy tilted his head. “But I want to help.”

            Ray shook his head. “Nope, not happening. This isn't your problem.”

            Roy raised an eyebrow. “Michael is my friend! I can be sneaky! I'm small!”

            Ray did have to admit that Roy looked like he would be good at sneaking around. But he was a kid, and a citizen. They weren't supposed to worry about political affairs. Though, this really wasn't as much political as it was Ryan. He sighed, because he supposed they needed all the help they could get. “Fine, but you're only going to stand watch, okay? And then you’re going straight home.” He said quickly.

            Roy smiled. “I promise, I won't get in your way.”

            Ray sighed and pulled out an invisibility potion with a grumble. “You can hide in my room until we’re ready. Drink this.” Roy downed the potion and followed Ray to his room without incident. He sat down on the bed as the potion wore off. Ray gave him a stern warning to stay put and left.

            Looking around the room, Roy noticed a dusty black stand with a book floating above it, and some bookshelves. Roy looked at the door, and then he went over to the strange device. The floating book was unmarked, but there was a smaller book sitting next to the stand on the table. The title read: “Enchanting: A Basic Guide for Making Magical Objects.” Roy smiled. He’d never used an enchanting table before, though his father told him about them. He looked around the room for things to enchant. He spotted a pair of unused heavy iron boots and prepared to experiment with the basic enchantments listed in the book. If he was going to be in this room for a while, he might as well make it fun.

 

            Gavin lifted his hand to the door of Kdin’s office, but paused. Inside, he could hear the sound of pages turning, and a pencil scribbling. He took a deep breath and rapped his hand on the door three times.

“Come in.” Kdin’s voice said as it filtered through the door. Gavin opened the door. Edward’s voice whispered in his head. “Be careful, Fool.”

            Gavin wasn’t able to respond, but he walked up to Kdin’s desk. The transcripts were spread out in front of him and glowing letters flitted from the pages to Kdin’s glasses. “Hello, Gavin.” He said without looking up at him. Gavin stared at him.

            “Hey.” Gavin said as he took a seat.

Kdin looked up at him then, and he smiled. “I’ve found some stuff out.”

Gavin’s face stayed blank, but he gained a slight frown. “I don’t care.”

Kdin raised an eyebrow. “I’m, uh, not done yet, but I’m close.” Gavin kept staring at him, playing the conversation he overheard in his head on a loop. Kdin frowned. “Are you okay? You’re kind of freaking me out.”

Gavin laughed a little. “Oh, I’m freaking you out?”

Kdin nodded. “I did just say that, yes.”

Gavin frowned. “You’re a little shit.”

Kdin raised an eyebrow, and a thought raced through his mind for just a moment, but he sent it away, not considering that Gavin could know, it wasn’t possible.

            “And why, exactly, am I a little shit?” Kdin said with an almost amused smile, a smile that made Gavin grit his teeth.

“You’re a little bloody rat. A selfish bloody prick.” He stood, and Kdin realized what had happened, somehow, even though he was so careful, except for that call that hadn’t been planned… which, of course, Kdin realized, happened only minutes before Gavin came into his office that same day. He watched Gavin with caution, readying a spell to knock him out. “I don’t know what you mean…”

Gavin stared down at him. “You know exactly what I mean.” He spat.

Kdin glared at him. “Sit down, Gavin.” He ordered. Gavin didn’t comply. Kdin stood to meet his glare. “Gavin, sit down. Now.”

Gavin spat at him, and it landed on his glasses. Kdin sighed, calmly took off his glasses, cleaned them, and put them back on. He looked back up at Gavin. “Fine.” He held up his hand, and a purple wave pulsed out of it, throwing Gavin across the room and into a bookshelf. Books and shelving toppled down on top of him, and he struggled to his feet. He glared at Kdin.

            Kdin looked at his hand and balled it into his fist. “I was just going to knock you out, but you’ve made me mad now.” He looked up and his irises turned a dark purple. “That was a really shitty idea.”

Gavin held up his fists. “Let me leave.”

Kdin shook his head, snarling. “I really can’t, Gavin.” Gavin swung quickly and made contact with Kdin’s jaw. Kdin recoiled, keeping his head to the side. His hands began to smoke. “Gavin…” He said as he spat out a glob of blood. “Stand. Down.”

Gavin shook his head. “No. Let me leave.”

Kdin turned to look at him, slowly. “It’s for your own good, Gavin.”

Gavin hissed at him. “You don’t fucking know what’s good for me.”

Kdin took hold of Gavin’s hands with telekinesis and pinned him against the back of the now destroyed bookcase. “You need to be protected.” He said as his pupils turned to slits.

            Gavin muttered something. Kdin got closer to him. “What did you say?”

Gavin looked up. “I don’t need you to protect me.” He spat, bringing his foot into Kdin’s left ankle with a sharp crack. Kdin roared in pain, and his magical grip on Gavin’s hands released. Gavin brought his fists down on Kdin’s back, and he fell to the ground. He started to catch his breath and stared at Kdin, who was still conscious, but noticeably ragged in his breathing. Gavin started to walk towards the door, clutching his side, which had been struck by a rather large tome when the books rained down on him. He heard fabric rustling behind him.

Turning, he saw Kdin gathering a large ball of energy between his hands, staring at Gavin with a primal fury in his eyes. “THAT IS IT!” He roared, his voice booming. “YOU DO NOTHING BUT RESIST MY EFFORTS TO HELP YOU! I AM MILLENNIA OLD! HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY KNOW BETTER THAN ME?” He yelled, beginning to wind back the spell. “YOU. WILL. STAY.” He yelled as he sent the spell towards Gavin with lightning speed.

Gavin held out his hands in defense, and his mind flashed back to the moment before the arrow struck his chest. Memories hit him like the force of the spell he was anticipating, and that was when he stopped, realizing that nothing happened when the spell should have hit him. His hands were still in front of him, and Kdin was staring at him with a look of both fury and confusion. Gavin looked down at his hands. The purple ball of energy that was the spell was suspended there, trying to push against what seemed to be a net of spectral flame, red and bright.

Kdin gaped at him as Gavin looked up with a grin. “H-how did you-“ He sputtered, dumbfounded.

Gavin moved his hands so that the spell was suspended between them, a shell of flame surrounding it. He snapped his gaze to Kdin. “I. AM. LEAVING!” He yelled. He began to tear the spell in half, using his flames as vacuums.

Kdin started forward. “GAVIN, NO!” The seal of lavender energy surrounding the condensed orb of dark purple broke, and a pulse blasted out with a sound like a screaming wraith. The last things Gavin saw before he lost consciousness were Kdin falling to the ground, and yet another pulse of energy flying through the air, smashing the walls of the building into dust and revealing the sky of The End.

 

Four hours later, Ray and Jack approached Ray’s room. Ray looked back at Jack. “Roy’s in here. He’s maybe fifteen, so I don’t know what he’ll be able to do other than be a lookout.” Jack nodded, but as Ray opened the door, both of their opinions began to change.

Roy was standing over Ray’s enchantment table, glowing runes flowing into the pedestal from the bookshelves around the room, the book open, pages glowing, lighting up Roy’s face. Around him, what seemed to be Ray’s entire wardrobe sat, enchanted, in piles. Ray saw this and grew offended. “Roy!” He whisper-shouted. Roy looked at him, and the book flipped itself shut, the runes in transit dissolving.

Roy smiled nervously. “Oh, hey, Lord Ray, I was just… uh… I might have gotten a little carried away.” Ray growled and moved inside, Jack behind him. The door closed and was locked before Ray spoke again.

“Why the hell did you enchant all my shit?” He exclaimed. Roy looked around.

“Is this all your shit?” He asked, moving to the wardrobe and pulling it open. It was empty. “Oh. Whoops. I got really carried away.” Ray groaned and put his hand to his face. Roy looked at the ground. “I was bored.” Ray picked up a pair of glowing pants.

“What are these even enchanted with? Blast Protection?” He said with a frown.

Roy shook his head. “No, Thorns.” Ray dropped the pants. “Why would I give pants Blast Protection?” He asked with a smile.

Ray looked at him. “It’s not a choice, that’s why.”

Roy looked confused. “Yeah it is.” Ray shook his head. Roy nodded. “I asked for Thorns, I got Thorns.” Ray raised an eyebrow.

            “You asked?” He asked with a skeptical look. Jack was picking up random items. One pair of pants had sand in its pockets. Roy nodded. “That’s how it works, right?”

            Jack looked up at him. “When you say you asked, what do you mean by that? Who did you ask?” Roy sighed.

            “Not a who. You ask the book.” They all looked at the floating tome. Roy walked over and picked up his writing utensil. “Watch.” He took off his straw hat and placed it under the book on the platform. The book opened, and Roy began writing, his arm almost a blur. Ray looked over his shoulder and saw that he was writing the runes in the Beginner’s Manual, but in an order Ray had never seen. Albeit, he’d never tried enchanting more than a handful of times, but even he could see that this wasn’t a beginning enchantment. Roy stopped, and the light from the book poured like water over the hat beneath it. Roy took out the hat. “One hat with Hydrophobia, fresh from the magic furnace.” Ray frowned.

            Jack took the hat and examined it. “That’s not a real enchantment, son.”

            Roy sighed and took the roses out of a vase on Ray’s nightstand. He walked over and dumped the water on the hat. The liquid rolled off like lightning, leaving the hat completely dry. Jack and Ray’s mouths were agape. Ray looked at Roy, who was looking smug. “How did you do that? You just created a new enchantment!”

            Roy frowned. “I did? I just asked for what I wanted.”

            Jack dropped the hat. “What do you do when you ask?”

            Roy shrugged and placed the hat on his head again. “I just speak the language. Or write the runes, as it were.”

            Ray narrowed his eyes. “You can read the runes?”

            Roy scratched his chin and closed one eye. “Well, I really just translated the runes in my mind using the existing enchantments already listed in the book. Like, the one for Thorns is just asking for the damage from my enemies to be returned to them, or something like that, so I just memorized the runes and put it into regular letters, matching them up. Has no one done that before?” Jack shook his head slowly.

            “No. No one has ever done that.”

            Roy shrugged again. “Well, I made some stuff for tonight.” He went over to a smaller pile and started to dig in it while Ray looked at Jack with an expression that showed confusion and concern. Jack just nodded in agreement. Roy turned around with a pair of boots and a pair of gloves. He handed the boots to Jack. “Those are enchanted with Silent Step, does what you think, and Forever Fit, so they always fit whoever puts them on. Same with the gloves.” He handed them to Ray. “They’re enchanted with Bond Breaking, so you can get your friends out of their chains. But it only works on chains and cuffs.” Ray looked up, confused.

            “Why just chains and cuffs? Why not doors, too?”

            Roy huffed. “Because, I remembered a lesson in school that said that all prison doors are made of silver to prevent magic users from just blasting their way out. Enchanted items don’t work on silver, just like regular spells.”

            Jack nodded. “He’s right.” Ray rolled his eyes.

            Roy looked down at the piles of clothes. “I had a pair of pants with Wall Walking, like through them, but I seem to have misplaced them. Plus, that was a long enchantment to write, and I didn’t feel like doing it again.” Jack raised an eyebrow and picked up the pants with sand in the pockets.

            “And what is this pair enchanted with?”

            Roy laughed. “Oh, those are enchanted with Prestidigitation.” He grabbed a handful of the sand from the left pocket, and it refilled instantly. He threw the sand and it sparked into tiny wisps of color. Ray and Jack were mesmerized until the color faded. They looked back at Roy, who smiled. “The other pocket just has regular, vision destroying pocket sand.” Jack nodded. “Also, Forever Fit.” He added quickly. Jack held them up.

            “I’m keeping them.”

            Roy shrugged. “I don’t care. All I had to write was ‘pocket sand.’ Take ‘em.” Jack nodded again.

            Ray sighed and sat down on his bed while Roy continued to show Jack absurd, yet strangely practical, enchantments that he put on Ray’s clothes. This was going to be interesting.

 

            Gavin woke to a source-less wind blowing on his face. Around him, the walls that once marked the rooms of Kdin’s house were nothing more than small pathway markers. Looking around the plateau, Gavin could see that the obsidian pillars themselves had taken a hit, with large chunks missing, making them unstable. Looking closer, Gavin could see the figures of Jeremy, Matt, and Caleb, sitting up in the rubble of what used to be their houses. Their silhouettes started waving their arms, yelling and pointing at Gavin. Or perhaps, next to him. Gavin turned to see Kdin, skin crawling with purple fire, beginning to stand. A word echoed across the plateau into Gavin’s mind. Whether it was from Jeremy, Matt, or Caleb wasn’t important. What was important was the action. Run.

            Gavin scrambled to his feet, ignoring the protest of his throbbing head and aching side. He could see the fountain. He started to run, hoping despite having no knowledge of how it worked that he would figure it out on his way there. He could hear the crunch of the rocks behind him as Kdin started to move. Gavin risked a look back, and what he saw, he didn’t like. Kdin’s eyes were glowing purple, his skin now on fire with a sinister looking black flame. His clothes began to burn away, his skin began to char and blister. But what bothered Gavin the most was his speed. He wasn’t running. He was walking, swiftly mind you, towards Gavin, while Gavin kept running. Gavin turned around in time to dodge around a pillar. The fountain still didn’t look any closer, a seemingly common experience in the End. He looked back at Kdin. The man’s skin was pitch black, the fire now purple, beginning to fume out of his mouth. With every step his legs seemed to grow, and his body seemed to elongate, his arms growing thinner. Gavin didn’t know what the man was doing, but he had a very good guess. He wished he wasn’t correct. The fountain seemed the slightest bit closer. Gavin turned to look at Kdin’s progress again. The burned and cracked skin began to fall away, revealing scales that gleamed like the stars in the night sky. The glasses were gone, his hair burned away, revealing the beginning of horns that only grew in size as he walked on. Rows of pointed teeth poked out from his mouth, and his face began to elongate as well. Gavin saw something bust out from Kdin’s back, and he faced forward again, not wanting his sensitive gag reflex to trigger. The fountain seemed so much closer now.

            His joy was short lived, however, because the sound of loud, heavy breathing began behind him. He felt heat on his back, and he stopped moving out of instinct. He turned, slowly, and was faced with the maw of a great black dragon with purple glowing eyes and smoke pouring out of its nostrils. The Ender Dragon. The dragon leaned back, drawing back its great body onto its hind legs, wings spreading, and roared. The sound shook the ground, and multiple unstable pillars of obsidian toppled to the ground far below. Gavin stared at the beast, mesmerized by both its beauty and how menacing it was. The dragon fell to face him again, and Gavin saw no recognition in the great eyes of the beast. Kdin was not in control of this creature, though they were one and the same. It opened its jaw wide, slowly, and Gavin was frozen with fear, the throat of the beast before him. Deep inside the dragon, a purple glow began, growing steadily brighter. Gavin realized what was coming. He tried to force his feet to move, but got nowhere, still frozen in place by fear. An intake of breath by the dragon, a heat, a cold, nothing. Gavin looked up. The dragon was now far across the plateau, the fire dissipating without injury to anyone. Gavin looked up. Dan, the enderman king, stood there, looking at him with a squeak and a tilt of his head. Gavin smiled.

            Dan squeaked, and his mouth definitely turned into a smile. Another roar sounded, and Gavin looked back at the dragon. The great wings began to flap, the dragon looking at him with a glare of fury. The dragon took off. Gavin turned. The fountain was ten feet away, and he sent another smile towards Dan. He scrambled to the edge of the strange star water, and he remembered the protocols Kdin prescribed. Eyes closed, knees bent. But he didn’t know how it worked. Another roar, louder. He turned. The dragon was bearing down on him. Gavin stood to face it, his back to the water. The glow came from the mouth of the beast. Another voice echoed, a female voice. “Thought, Gavin!” A bird made of fire screamed past him, shooting waves of red energy at the dragon. The dragon started to hover, not even slightly bothered. “Think of where you want to go!” The voice came again. Lindsay. The dragon shot fire in a wide arc, and the purple hit orange. Gavin cried out.

            The bird lost control, falling to the ground. It turned into the figure of Lindsay. Her body stirred slightly, and Gavin knew that she was at least alive. He faced the dragon again. He couldn’t help her, not now. She was too far, the dragon too strong. He stared the dragon down as it focused on him again. He looked in the eyes of the beast, his heart racing.

He thought of his home. His house with his paintings. Logo Square. The Monuments. The Altar. The castle. Ray. Jack. Ryan. Geoff. Michael. Achievement City. The dragon inhaled again, and the purple fire shot towards him. Gavin spread his arms and fell back, the fire chasing him as he toppled. He felt his body begin to hit, and he closed his eyes. He was going home.

 

Ray approached the door to the dungeon as night fell proper. The guard looked away as he walked through, probably at an interesting cobweb that was the only thing for him to look at in a job as boring as his. Jack followed behind, not even his armor making a sound thanks to the enchanted boots provided by Roy, who, as it just so happened, was following Jack. They walked down the stairs to the dungeon, which was really just a long hallway underground connecting two different entrances. Ray sent Jack down to the other end with an invisibility potion meant to last five minutes, and he stationed Roy at the end they currently stood at with the same liquid. He began his search, as the dungeon was easily as long as a football field, and the doors had no space between them. With each door, he grew more worried. They had to be here, because if they weren’t, himself, Jack, and Roy were fucked. And Roy was the person Ray was really worried about in that series of events. He was mortal, a kid, and Ray wasn’t sure that Ryan would care.

He came to a cell that seemed odd as he looked through the bars. It was dark, and it seemed… bigger somehow. He shrugged and moved to the next one when neither Michael nor Geoff answered him, though he knew there was movement inside. Guards were posted every so often along the corridor, and they all averted their eyes when they saw the fabric of Ray’s suit, not wanting to see his face so that they could say they didn’t see him without lying to their terrifying King. Ray didn’t know what they were afraid of, he kept this plan under wraps. He hadn’t talked to Jack about it all day, except for in his locked room with Roy present. They were safe.

            He reached a cell, peered inside, and saw Michael and Geoff sitting there, asleep. Ray shook the bars. “Geoff, Michael!” He said quietly. Geoff stirred, he had always been a light sleeper, and upon seeing Ray’s face through the bars, he stood.

            “Ray, what are you doing here?” He hissed. Ray smiled.

            “I thought you would have been happy to see me.” He said, holding up the key he took from a guard he passed by. Geoff rolled his eyes and woke up Michael, who had the same reaction. Ray huffed and opened the door, moving inside to begin to break their chains.

            He held his hands over the links, and they began to heat up, melting. Michael looked at the open door. “Hurry up, Ray.” He hissed. Ray glared at him.

            “I’m going as fast as I can.”

            Geoff looked at him. “What’s your plan once we escape?”

            Ray looked up. “Go somewhere Ryan can’t find us. Bunker of Destiny, The Pit, Portal House. I don’t know where exactly.” A shadow exploded into existence in the light from the door, and Ray’s blood ran cold.

            “Oh really Ray. Is that your plan?” The voice of Ryan echoed in the cell. Ray swore to himself and stood slowly, turning around. Ryan stood there, arms crossed, in the doorway of the cell, leaning against the frame.

            Ray clenched his fists. “Ryan, let us go.” He said with a strong voice. Ryan laughed.

            “Oh, I don’t think so Ray.” He waved his hand, and the key on Ray’s belt melted into a copper paste. There was a loud crash outside, and the sound of wood clattering. Ryan frowned and looked down the hall both ways. “Hmm. Seems all the guards have disappeared.” And so they had. Spears and swords lay ownerless, and equipment scattered where the guards once stood. Ryan raised an eyebrow. “Seems like the crown believes a competition has started.” He tried to float, with no results except becoming more frustrated. “Unbelievable.” He muttered before looking up. “But I guess that means your little friend Roy has disappeared as well.” Michael’s eyes grew wide.

            “Roy? What do you know about Roy?” He growled.

            Ryan smiled. “He came to the castle, looking for you. I planned on locking him in a room and letting him starve to death, but Ray here found him while he was paying guards for silence. Not paying them all enough, evidently.” Ray swore to himself. “But Ray agreed to bring Roy along in his little plan to free you. Apparently two heads weren’t better than one.” Ray inhaled. He didn’t know about Jack. The guard only mentioned Ray. Ryan tilted his head. “So how should I punish you three? A week without food, down here? No, too stale. Colosseum? No, too overdone.” As he talked, Jack snuck up behind him, his footsteps silent. Ray’s eyes went wide, and he motioned at Ryan. Jack stared for a second, as if deciding something. What the hell was there to decide? It didn’t matter, because Jack reached out and tapped Ryan on the shoulder. Ryan whirled around and was greeted with a face full of sand. He yelped, and in a moment, Jack grabbed the crown, thrusting his boot into Ryan’s chest and sending him toppling back into the cell into the other men, all of them falling to the ground in a pile. He shut the cell door, and it locked automatically. He walked up to the bars. Ryan cleared the sand from his eyes and looked up. “Jack, let me out, I am the King!” He yelled.

            Jack shook his head. The four of them frowned. “I’m not letting any of you out.” He muttered. Ray stood.

            “Jack, this isn’t funny.”

            Jack glared at him. “You’re right, it isn’t. Look at you four. Arguing over nothing! A crown! Gavin is dead, and you dishonor him by quarreling.” Michael stood and banged his fist into the door, not even startling Jack.

            “What the hell do you know about Gavin, huh? How do you think you know what he would want from us?” He roared. Jack sent him an angry glare, and Michael stepped back, surprised by how hard it hit him. Jack had never looked at anyone like that.

            Jack looked at the crown. “This is the source of our problems, along with another item.” He looked at Geoff, who swallowed. “Where is the Tower?” Geoff stayed silent. Jack banged on the door, making a dent. “Tell me!” Geoff stood.

            “Why the hell should I tell you? You’re locking us in here.” He said with a glare. Jack relaxed.

            “I’ll find it. The world is only so big. And when I do, I’m going to destroy it.” Their eyes went wide.

            “You can’t do that!”
            “That’s a symbol of victory!”

            “Gavin made that!”

            “It keeps us alive!”

            Jack hit the door again with a snarl. “Be quiet. Now.” They all fell silent. “I will destroy it, and this crown, and then I will fix this broken kingdom, like you all have failed to do, time and time again.” They looked taken aback at his words. They weren’t that bad of rulers, were they? Jack sighed. “You four… I thought better of you, you know… you always seemed so sensible, I valued that…” He paused, pursing his lips. “I’m really, so very… disappointed in all of you.” The words hit them like a freight train, and they had no idea why. Jack, disappointed in them. They were mad, they were angry, they had done this to themselves, the very thing they were afraid of. Disappointing the most supportive of them all. Jack began to walk away, and he was only five steps away before something in Geoff’s mind clicked, something to say, and it was something that would make Jack furious. And he had no idea why.

            But he rushed forward, grabbing the bars and shaking them. “HENRY! GET BACK HERE!” He roared. Jack stopped in his tracks, stiff as a board. He spun around fast enough to stir dust, and was against the door in an instant. Geoff fell back in shock. Jack stared down at him with pure rage.

            “Never, EVER call me that again. Do you hear me? NEVER! That is NOT my name.” They stared at each other for a moment, and then Jack spoke again. “We are no longer friends. A lifetime of friendship, wasted.” He spat, and Geoff looked down, ashamed. Jack turned again, and he walked on, this time his eyes angry with rage, his hands shaking as he clutched the crown. He stared at it as he walked, and then he smiled, placing it on his head. “Long live the King.”

Chapter Text

            Kdin shrunk down to his normal form after Gavin fell through the portal, and he had enough conscious thought to conjure clothes onto himself before passing out. He woke up to Caleb over him with a potion of healing in his hand. He sat up quickly. “Where the fuck is Lindsay?” He asked. Caleb looked over to where Lindsay was sat with a blanket around her shoulders, being given a potion by Jeremy. Kdin stood up and walked over to her. “Sorry.” He said shortly. Lindsay looked up at him.

            “You weren't in control. It's fine.” She stared at the fountain. “He made it.” Kdin nodded.

            “He did.” He paused. “He's not safe. None of them are.” Lindsay stood.

            “What do you mean?” She was thinking of Michael.

            Kdin looked at her. “The journals. Whoever wrote them was smart.” Lindsay frowned. Kdin continued. “The spell that's in the Tower. It's old. And I mean, really old. And it doesn't just keep people from dying before their time. It preserves them afterwards.” Lindsay frowned.

            “What do you mean?”

            Kdin sighed. “The life force that the Tower takes, it's not just an energy. It's your memories, your consciousness. It's basically your mind and soul put in stasis.” Lindsay frowned. Kdin took a deep breath. “The men that the person that wrote the journals worked with, they were dangerous. Insane, murderous, bent on conquest. Completely loyal to a man called the First.” Lindsay’s eyes widened.

            “And the man in Gavin's head?”

            Kdin nodded. “He was one of them.” Lindsay looked at the fountain.

            “We need to warn him.” Matt shook his head.

            “We’ve already tried to get through. It just spits us out here.” Kdin frowned.

            “It shouldn’t do that.”

            Matt shrugged. “Well, it does.”

            Lindsay closed her eyes. “Why did we send ourselves here?” She moaned.

            Kdin looked at her. “Because they didn’t want us there.” The others looked down. “But they are in grave danger. The mind and the soul can’t work without the third piece.” Jeremy frowned.

            “And what is that?”

            Kdin looked at him. “The body.”

            Jeremy took a deep breath and looked at the fountain. “So how do they get into the bodies?”

            Kdin sat down. “Well, the journal said that the preserved life forces needed a vessel separate from the container for the active ones. I’m assuming that skin contact would be enough. But even then, the life forces shouldn’t even be active. They’re dead, for all intents and purposes. They shouldn’t be able to possess, or do anything.” Caleb remembered Ryan.

            “The crown. We put Ryan’s life force in the crown.” Kdin’s eyes went wide and he groaned.

            “We did. If the crown was the vessel, the life force would probably spark them back.” Kdin rubbed his eyes. “We did this. It’s the only explanation for why Ryan went mad once he became King the second time. And Kerry died for it.” He screwed his eyes shut and yelled. “Son of a bitch!” He sat down. Lindsay sat next to him.

            “We need to call him. Tell him what happened. What’s happening now.” She said softly. Kdin looked up at the others.

            “I suppose you all know?” They nodded. He stood. “Alright.” He turned and opened a window, sending a beacon. Their client appeared in a window.

            “What is it? We did not arrange this call.” He sounded annoyed. Kdin turned to the other three that were looking at the client with wide eyes and disbelief. They looked at Kdin, and he nodded. The resemblance was uncanny. Looked just like him. He turned back to the frame.

            “Sir, something has happened.” Kdin said shortly. The client’s eyes darkened.

            “What has happened?” Kdin looked down.

            “He escaped. I tried to stop him, but he activated his magic when threatened. It was just like you said. Flames.” The man looked down.

            “When I hired you, I thought that you would be able to keep him under control. All five of you were more than capable of stopping him.”

            Kdin smiled slightly. “Well sir, he had a little help from an enderman that somehow disobeyed my order not to interfere. Gavin made friends with him prior.” The client rubbed his eyes, his inked hands shining in the light.

            “Of course he did. And where is he now?” Kdin smiled.

            “Where do you think?”

            The man groaned and slammed his fist down suddenly. “Dammit!” Kdin smirked. He didn’t really favor their client. “I was about to come collect him, but there were some… complications.” Kdin nodded.

            “Happens to all of us. But you should know that he is currently the host to a parasite.” The client looked up.

            “What?”

            “Another… entity… is hitching a ride in his mind.”

            “That would explain his actions previous to his arrival in the End.”

            Kdin nodded. “Yes sir.”

            The client sighed. “You will receive your payment soon.”

            Kdin frowned. “But sir, we didn’t keep him here.”

            “You tried. That was the agreement.” Kdin nodded. “I will take care of him myself. I will just have to accelerate…”

            Kdin nodded. “Thank you sir. Pleasure doing business with you.”

            The client nodded. “Kdin, Dragon of the End.” He said with a bow of his head.

            Kdin bowed in return. “Albert, Lord of the Free.” Kdin looked up at the man with the side swept blonde hair and streaks of grey, the green eyes, the large nose, the laugh lines.

            The man leaned forward with a sad look, a pleading look, a look of worry. “Please. Find my son.” The image disappeared.

Chapter Text

So, it's been a while, huh? Since I finished this story and promised a third. I'm genuinely curious, now, if anyone on this site remembers reading this, if they ever did. It was my pride and joy, really, and it's almost novel length. With the third and final part it probably would have been. So, here's the deal. I still have the first chapter of the third story, I wrote it so long ago, about a month after this one was done, and I just... never posted it, because I was never happy with it. But, reading this now, I'd REALLY love to finish it off, just for old times' sake. So, if you read these fics waaaaaaaay back when, and you want to see it finished, let me know. Comment, kudos, bookmark. Anything, really. I'll start the third story regardless!

Chapter Text

It's finally posted! The King's Reign is now officially on AO3 and all that.