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A Crown of Broken Runes (ACOBR)

Chapter Text

Grian had a devious plan. He grabbed a single lantern, despite it being midday, and took off, the rockets leaving a cloudy-white trail across the light blue sky.

He dove straight down towards his friend’s base, pulling up just in time, and landing right behind Mumbo. The mustached man did not turn, busy with the task he was doing. Grian quickly hid, wiggling behind a mound of dirt.

He watched his redstone-ridden buddy eagerly. “Oh my—” he held his breath as Mumbo flew straight past his little dirt lump. “How has he not seen me?” Grian whispered in awe. Mumbo continued to do... whatever he was doing. For a few minutes, he simply hopped up and down, flying this way and that. His footsteps tapped on the stony floor, and the sunlight danced playfully around the building, lighting up the mossy stone.

Grian began to quietly narrate him, whispering with glee. “And here we see the Mumbo Jumbo in his natural habitat...” He struggled to hold back a laugh. “Seemingly thinking, as he bounces up and down with the use of his wings.”

As he narrated, Mumbo continued to dart about with his elytra. The silvery material would billow out, and then deflate sadly as the Redstoner immediately sunk back to earth. Grian waited it out, and narrated some more. “This behaviour has baffled scientists and hermits alike for many generations.” At this last remark, Grian cracked himself up, feebly attempting to keep his laughter quiet.

After a moment, Mumbo hopped a bit farther away, his back turned. Grian saw the opportunity and took it. He decided it was safe to try to sneak in. “We’re going for it!” he whispered to himself. “We’re going in!” With that, he slipped into the hole at the center of the base, gracefully gliding down upon his very own elytra to make not a single sound.

Revelling in silence at his amazing entry, he began to tiptoe about the base. Tall rows of chests lined the walls, towering high above. He made his way down a hallway, water flowing in graceful streams past wooden framing. He came to an intersection, and turned left, looking ahead at the glowing enchanting table and library surrounding it. An extremely old-looking book lay upon the table in the center of the room, and it seemed to be pulling strange symbols and letters from the surrounding pages. The bookshelves were packed with colourful tomes, and as he approached, the book on the ornate table opened for him.

Grian ignored it. That wasn't why he was here.

He inspected the smooth stone above him, and sneakily hung up the lantern. “If I know Mumbo at all,” he mumbled to himself, “He’ll just accept that this is there.” He snickered.

I’ll just keep adding things and see how long it takes him to notice.

He made his way back to the entrance, but he saw Mumbo approaching, and hurriedly hid behind one of the decorative tree trunks. A few tense minutes passed, with Mumbo hopping around right above him.

What do I do now?

At that very moment, the mustached man himself flew down and landed right in front of him. Grian panicked. With an incoherent yell of surprise, he sprinted past the astonished Redstoner to the water elevator. But it was the wrong one. He got out, and skidded into the adjacent bubble stream. After only a short ride upwards, he frantically popped out of the top, taking off into the skies immediately.

As he made his way back home, he sighed. “All of that, just to be rumbled instantly...”

~ ⬩ ᔑℸ ̣ ⬩ ~

Grian went for a fly. He dipped about the jungle, and did a loop-dee-doo, taking a breath of fresh air. He loved the feeling of the wind whooshing past his face.

He had been working on his base for the last few hours, and it looked... better. His hands did become sore from placing concrete, however, and his jumper had been sweaty, even a bit ripped in places. He had changed into some fresh clothing, and decided he might as well go for a fly around the server.

Grian flitted around to the back of his base, still a blank wall, and tossed some stones at it, which landed upon the ground in a sad little pile.

There ya go, some details. He thought to himself, and flew off, abandoning the work as usual.

He dusted off some of the concrete powder still clinging to his hands, and took off once again.

He soared over the jungle, staring in awe at Ren’s huge handmade biome, and at Stress’s mushroomy base. Then, he decided to go in a direction he did not often go. Grian flew over in the direction of Keralis's city.

Upon arriving, he couldn't help but stare in awe at the magnificent bird’s-eye view of the sprawling metropolis, but after a few moments, he moved on to Etho’s spread-out jungle base. He turned back about two thirds of the way, however, realising that he was almost out of rockets. He continued to fly but... something was wrong. He was falling... falling... he quickly checked his elytra, and gasped in horror as he realised it was broken. The torn textile tatters did nothing to slow his fall when he tried to spread them out. He panicked, flailing around, before giving up. There was nothing for it.

His vision went black just before he hit the ground.

~ ⬩ ∴𝙹∷ꖎ↸’ᓭ ̣ ⬩ ~

Mumbo was still hopping about his base, and shaking his head as he wondered what in the world Grian had been doing. On a random impulse, Mumbo looked up. He couldn't tell you why he did, he just... did. Something felt wrong.

And then the world snapped.

With a sound like thunder, the world flickered into something else. Tall black towers rose out of the ground where the forests used to be. The air filled with foggy purple mist. The sky went dark, and an odd symbol glowed in the heavens for just a moment. The ground became a pale yellowish hue. All over the server, hermits looked outside, shocked by their flickering reality, flipping back and forth between the familiar and the unknown.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, it stopped, and the world was right again. However, a thought now lingered on every hermit’s mind.

What just happened?

Chapter Text

A train station made of stone. An icy ocean. A mighty city, guarded over by pale golems. A blue squid. A statue made of clay. A grave.

Grian took a deep breath, pulling himself out of his dreams. The man stretched, wincing as the light of day streamed directly into his eyes. He reached up to rub the sleepiness from his face, but something stopped him. A faint, pale purplish glow was emanating from his hand. He inspected it curiously, realising that he had a small symbol on the palms of both his hands. It looked like two L’s, one facing up, one facing down, along with two dots. He inhaled. There was something strangely... familiar about it.

Where have I seen this before?

Grian stood up, wobbling unsteadily, and attempted to run his fingers through his waffle-like hair. As he did so, his hands brushed his helmet, and he realised he was still wearing his armour and broken elytra.

What? He thought. I died. I should have lost all of my items... He shrugged, and walked out into the bright sunlight.

After a moment of stretching, he noticed an unfamiliar weight on his back. He unclipped the silvery gliders and felt his back curiously. Two large lumps protruded from his shoulder blades. His eyebrows knitted together in confusion. He should get a better look.

He equipped a spare elytra and glided down to the little lake where his starter base was. The serene pond beneath reflected him perfectly, and the few ripples that there were lapped playfully at the shore. A few schools of fish darted about in the cool, clear water. As he alighted, the beautiful jungle scenery rose around him. Vines hung down from the branches of the trees, and in the distance, an enormous tree rose from the ground, planted and nurtured by Iskall, one of his buddies and jungle neighbours. Larry the Snail sat peacefully on the banks of the lake, and Grian quickly popped in to see if his owner, Scar, was home. Grinning from ear to ear, he broke down the door, snatching it and quickly depositing it into a shulker box.

His boots sunk into the sand as he alighted at the edge of the water. He took off his armour and glanced at this reflection. Confusion flashed across his face. His eyes were a faint purple and... on his back...

He pulled off his signature red jumper and inhaled sharply. Two magnificent wings, covered in glittering pale violet feathers, merged smoothly into his skin. He carefully felt the new appendages with shaking hands. He scooped up some water, and splashed it across his face, taking in what he had seen. He stood up, breathing heavily, and placed down a chest. His jumper, followed by his armour and the elytra, flew into it, and it snapped closed with a creak.

Glancing about, he made sure he wasn't being watched. The bird-man flexed his wings experimentally, and to his great surprise, it felt almost... instinctual. Like he had done it before... he shook off the thought. That couldn't be. He flapped them, and a few glimmering feathers floated down and landed upon the water. Ripples made their way gently across the serene surface of the lake, warping his reflection. He moved his wings again, up and down, and he felt his weight begin to lift. Enthused by this small success, Grian began to flap harder. The water waved and splashed as he tried to take off, the gusts from each flap hitting the surface.

Suddenly, he was in the sky. He laughed, exhilarated by the air flowing through his feathers and hair. He went higher, bursting through the branches of the jungle canopy, and tried to hover. The mist from the clouds condensed in gleaming pearls, clinging to his skin and resting on his wings like beads of glass. The wind was stronger up here, and he let out an exclamation of dismay as an unexpected gust of air hit him. He flailed a bit, tumbling through the air.

He moved his wings up and down awkwardly as the wind tossed him about. He still needed practice. Flying here in the humid jungle was much different than the stagnant air of the mesa. He crashed back down through the branches of the canopy, startling a parrot. Grian’s panicked flapping smacked him into a tree trunk, and he ricocheted into some vines. He winced, grasping the thick ropy creepers to stop himself from falling. He folded his wings with a sigh, and began to disentangle himself from the plants.

After a bit of careful manoeuvring down the strong green vines, he alighted upon the ground. He sat, groaning at the new aches in his face and side. Scratches throbbed angrily from where he had hit the tree, even though his side had taken most of the impact. He ate a golden carrot, and once he had finished he put back on his jumper. The feathers poked out noticeably at the bottom and they were pressed in uncomfortably. He shifted his shoulders. Still not the comfiest. With a sigh, he decided to cut slits in the back. He had a lot of jumpers. He could sacrifice this one.

Once his new appendages were freed from their textile prison, he spread them out and smiled. He should show Mumbo! But first, he needed to retrieve his elytra. He would have loved to show off his new abilities, but... he didn't think that would end well. He chuckled as he imagined smacking into Mumbo as he tried to show off how “skilled” he was. Still grinning, he put on the elytra and took off.

~ ⬩ ᒷリ↸ ⬩ ~

“...atcher is none other than our good friend Gri—”

“HELLOOOOOOO!” Grian shouted, interrupting Scar as he dove down out of the canopy. His wings were barely noticeable when he was wearing his elytra, the silvery folds of membrane draping over most of his back. He landed with a thud behind Mumbo who had been, until Grian had surprised him, having a conversion with the other hermit.

Mumbo seemed extremely startled by his abrupt arrival, and it took The moustached man a few seconds until he managed to speak. “Hey Grian! Did you see the... um... the thing yesterday? That was weird. It was like the world kinda... broke, or something..”

“And did you notice the weird letters in the sky?” interjected Scar, his eyes wide.

“W-what?” Grian took a step back. He hadn't seen anything of the sort.

“No, Scar, it was definitely some kind of symbol. Like a broken rectangle. I'm a bit spooked, to be honest.” Mumbo stated with a shiver.

The symbol that was glowing on his own hands flashed through Grian's mind. He was about to show them this when Scar said. “And Xisuma said he saw someone out flying.” He paused for dramatic effect, not noticing Mumbo’s exasperated expression.

“Hey guys I need to—” Grian timidly attempted to interject.

Scar didn't notice.

“But here's the thing. I asked everybody,” At this, Scar held up his communicator and shook it slightly, where a tiny screen displayed worldwide messages to every hermit. “And so far, no one had been out flying when it happened. Xisuma thinks that this mystery person might have something to do with the crater!”

“Wait, what crater?” Grian inquired curiously.

“Yeah yeah, Xisuma found an odd crater between his and Keralis's base, and we’re going to run experiments on it! It's got all this purply smoke and bedrock and stuff!”
Mumbo paused, “Grian, you weren’t out flying when it happened, were you?”

Grian opened his mouth to tell them, but hesitated. They were his friends. They would understand. Right? They would be supportive and help him figure out what was happening to him surely. But on the other hand, what if they blamed him for the crater? What if they wanted to run experiments on him? He wouldn't, couldn't let that happen. They can't find out he had something to do with this.

Steeling himself, he made his decision.

“No,” he answered. “I was working on the back of my base.”

~ ⬩ ᔑ ⬩ ~

Grian smashed his face into the dirt. Again. Heaving a heavy sigh, he got up and brushed the dust off. He flexed his wings and fluttered back up to the platform he had made for himself. He was getting better at controlling his flight, but when it came to landing... the numerous dirt smudges and bruises on his body spoke for themselves.

He was going to help investigate the crater with Iskall, Keralis, and Xisuma later today. Mumbo was going to stay back, he needed to work on his base, and Scar was going to help him. Grian, however, accepted the invitation, genuinely curious about what he would find. Besides, he needed an excuse to avoid the back of his mansion. However, he did need to clean up; they would wonder at his sorry state.

I think I'm going to need a better way to hide these wings...

He hopped off the edge of the platform once again, and flew in a circle, scoping out a place to land. After a few more lazy circles in the sky, he pulled his wings and arms in close, diving towards the ground, and just as it seemed he’d hit it once again, he flared his wings open. His joints screamed as the air billowed beneath them, and he winced. But then his feet alighted upon the ground, and he only stumbled slightly. Despite his coating of dirt and sweat, Grian let out a cheer.

“Yes! I did it!!! Yesssssss!!!”

He laughed, and flopped down onto the ground.

The sun was high in the sky, and the hot red soil of the mesa wasn't helping things much. The sand was a fiery shade of orange. Dead bushes dotted the dusty dunes, rattling like the bones of a skeleton. The occasional sturdy acacia tree would cast its long shadow across the scorching terracotta. Every so often a small patch of sickly yellow grass would poke out of the scorched land.

He retrieved his belongings from a chest nearby and put his jumper back on. He shoved his wings through the holes, tucking them neatly behind him. It's not that he minded lying with the jumper on, it was just blisteringly hot in the badlands. This area in the south that he chose was secluded and uninhabited. The risk of being seen was practically nil, making this an optimal spot to practice flying. Equipping his elytra, he headed back to his base to see if his plan would work.

~ ⬩ ᒲᔑリ ⬩ ~

Some beautiful blood-red cloth. A small pin that he found in a chest. A wonderfully shiny black thread to bring it all together. Grian’s cloak was complete. He was back at the edge of the lake, admiring his reflection. The hood nicely concealed the lump that his protruding wings made, and the rest of it billowed out, making the wings barely noticeable. As long as he kept it firmly strapped in place, he should be able to use his elytra over it. He turned around a few more times, admiring his reflection. He twisted his neck and touched his odd hairdo. “Just look at my glorious waffle!” he chuckled to himself.

He clipped on his elytra to make absolutely sure that it functioned well. He took off, firing some rockets. It felt a bit odd now, flying with an elytra. He wished he could fly around the server with his wings, but he had to keep them secret. The flight was a bit odd with his new cloak. It caught the wind and billowed weirdly, and it kept catching on his armour. He shrugged. He was a skilled flyer, and could compensate for the cloak.

He landed at his base and deposited some of the junk he had into various chests and boxes. After his inventory was mostly emptied, he took off again, ready to investigate the crater.

Chapter Text

Smack.

“AHAHAHAhahahahaha!!!”

Even Xisuma chortled a bit as Iskall and Grian laughed jovially. Upon the branches and leaves in front of them lay all of Keralis’ items, along with several orbs of experience, floating about lazily. Iskall was sitting on a branch of the adjacent tree, while Grian and Xisuma were standing on the edge of one of the bee man’s very own buildings.

Xisuma was a fair bit taller than both Grian and Iskall, but was only a little taller than Keralis. His yellow doom suit glinted, catching the sun, and his clear insect wings shifted slightly as he chuckled. They were merely cleverly disguised elytra, but it merged seamlessly into the body of the suit. His face was hidden behind the tinted window in his mask, and two small antennae poked out of the top, imitating that of a bee.

Iskall was wearing his normal clothing, jeans and a green sweatshirt to match his singular robotic green eye. His other eye was grey, and his hair looked as if it had been soaked in dark chocolate. Despite his initially startling mechanical additions, Iskall was friendly and agreeable, and another of Grian’s jungle neighbours.

Grian had worn his normal red sweater over his brand-new cloak, and his dirty-blond hair was always messy. The wing concealment had worked marvellously so far. He had gotten friendly compliments on how it looked and nothing more. His eyes were the one thing he worried about, but they probably wouldn't notice the change.

Keralis wore a black cap on his head, and he had this look about him that made him seem constantly shocked. His bright orange construction worker vest shone brightly as, a few minutes later, he rocketed back. He always looks ready to build with that getup. A pair of old spare elytra were strapped to his shoulders, and his dark hair looked dishevelled. He hit the ground with another loud thud, but managed to right himself. He picked up his armour and blocks, grumbling at his friends’ continued amusement at his mistake.

“Keralis, what— how—” but Iskall couldn't finish the sentence and he collapsed, shaking with another bout of mirth.

“Oh hush.” Sighed Keralis, giving in to a small smile. “It’s not that funny.”

~ ⬩ ⎓╎リ↸ᓭ ⬩ ~

The air seemed to press in around them. The dense lavender haze was almost suffocating, much worse than nether fog. They could just barely see a few steps ahead of their feet. The mist swirled around them in eerie loops, and sound was unable to penetrate the crater. It was black as night, and the ground was pale and porous. The only sounds were the muffled echoes of their footsteps as they made their way along. Dark shapes rose out of the fog around them, huge black towers rising into a starless void. Grian glanced about at his friends. Iskall’s expression, Grian noticed, seemed very nervous, and Keralis looked downright terrified. Even Xisuma appeared to be shivering slightly, as if he was standing in a cold draft of air. Grian was scared, yes, but this place’s spooky atmosphere seemed to affect the others more than himself. In the back of his mind, he dully wondered why.

They pushed ahead in silence, the hush was like in a church. It felt as if any small sound that could shatter the serenity would shatter the world as well.

They continued quietly, even the scraping of their shoes muffled by the thick, dreary atmosphere.

Finally, Grian broke the silence. “There’s something dark up ahead...”

The others started, slightly surprised by the sound. They all gathered around, peering through the fog.

“This is pretty frickin spooky...” Iskall mumbled.

“I think that’s the centre of the crater.” Xisuma uttered.

Keralis took a hesitant step forward. The others followed, looking at their surroundings. Ahead, the hard greenish-yellow stone sloped downwards and transitioned into a mix of shining black obsidian and dark, grey-and-black bedrock.

“This, this rock, it isn’t supposed to be abouts here, is it?” Keralis scraped at the bedrock with his foot.

As the group moved forwards, the mist parted, and they could see the centre relatively clearly.

“This feels... wrong. Whatever caused this doesn’t belong here.” Xisuma scraped up some obsidian and yellowy stone, and deposited it into his storage for later inspection.
He tried for a moment to pry up a piece of bedrock, but it wouldn’t budge.

Grian looked up. The sky was dark, darker than it should have been. There were no stars, no pinpricks of light, only a deep inky blackness that felt as if it would consume them.
From up ahead, Iskall’s voice echoed oddly across the heart of the crater, refracting off of the craggy landscape. “Uh...guys...you should probl’y see this...”.

In the very epicentre of the crater, there was a small pedestal.

“What’s that?” asked Grian with genuine confusion.

A black rectangular object sat upon it, a symbol of glowing violet etched into the front. It's smooth, pitch black surface seemed to absorb the light around it. The shimmering symbol stood out on stark contrast, a deep magenta that seemed to swirl and eddy like a liquid.

Keralis and Xisuma were not far behind, and Keralis was holding a bottle containing some of the fog that surrounded the rest of the crater. The group shuffled forwards, and realised that the mysterious item was moulded, as if to be worn over the face.

“It looks like... some sort of mask. But that can't be right. Then how would you see?” Xisuma inspected the mask from a distance.

Keralis took a tentative step forward, and reached out to grab the mask for a closer inspection. The air began to tingle as his fingers got closer to the surface. Xisuma started forwards. “Keralis wait! We don’t know—”

 

And then the lightning came.

 

Iskall, Grian and Xisuma were all thrown backwards by the wave of energy. They watched, stunned and horrified, as flickering black lightning coursed through their friend. Keralis let out a yell of pain, and was thrown backwards from the mask. He landed, hitting his head on the ground with a loud crack, and was still.

Grian was first to recover. He had landed oddly, and his ankle burned, but the bird man seemed otherwise okay. In a moment, Xisuma and Iskall were by his side. Iskall had a bad cut on his arm, and Xisuma’s helmet was cracked, but they both seemed okay. Keralis, however, was not. He was deathly pale, and his skin covered in burns. Iskall pulled off his sweatshirt, and used it to staunch the blood that was seeping out of a gash on the back of his head, from when he hit the ground.

The three of them began to make their way out of the crater, taking turns carrying Keralis’s limp form. First Iskall and Grian would carry him between them, then Xisuma would carry him, proving that he was quite a bit stronger than he looked.

After a long and arduous journey, they made it out. The dense purple cloud now faintly crackled with energy here and there. They set Keralis down in some leaves on the jungle floor.
“Alright. Grian, you go get some blocks to wall off the crater, and warn other hermits not to go near it. Xisuma, can you go get some potions? I heard that you’ve been planning on making a brewery, I'm hoping that you have some in storage already. I’ll stay here and take care of Keralis.” Iskall commanded.

Both men stood up and nodded. Xisuma took off immediately, while Grian typed out some messages on the communicator. Then he took off as well.

Back at his base, he grabbed a shulker of building materials and some other random items and made his way back quickly. He tapped his communicator one last time before slipping it into his pocket.

ᐸGrianᐳ No one go near the crater. Keralis got really hurt when we went in, so be careful. We don't know if he’ll be okay.
ᐸZombieCleoᐳ What happened? Did a mob attack you?
ᐸGrianᐳ No, it was some kind of lightning. He tried to grab something we found in the crater, but it pushed us all back, and it hit him the most.
ᐸGrianᐳ It was a little black mask or something.
ᐸRenTheDogᐳ Give him some food, I'm sure he’ll be fine once he gets some hearts back.
ᐸGrianᐳ That's the odd thing though. His hearts seem to be fine. He's hurt in a much worse way. STAY AWAY FROM THE CRATER.

Chapter Text

Keralis slowly opened his eyes.

“Hello?” he called. In a few moments, Etho, Xisuma, Impulse and Grian were all standing over him.

“Oh thank goodness.” Grian sighed. There were dark circles under Impulse and Grian’s eyes, and by the way Xisuma was standing, he was probably pretty exhausted too. It looked like they had been awake all night for several days, waiting for Keralis to recover. Grian looked oddly guilty, but Keralis passed off that thought. His head hurt. Grian spoke to him in a soft voice.

“Do you remember what happened in the crater?” he inquired, typing into his communicator to inform the other hermits that he had woken.
Keralis’s face screwed up as he searched for his memories.

We explored the crater... we found this thing... the black thing. I reached out to touch it... a crackle of lightning... a blast of pain.

He remembered, alright. He imagined that he must have been hit by the full force of that electric wave, since he was in the worst condition by far. Xisuma appeared to have a brand-new helmet, and Iskall had a bandage on his arm, but the other hermits in the room looked otherwise unharmed. In the back of his mind, he wondered why Iskall didn't just eat something and heal up. He tried to lift himself out of the bed, but his eyes became unfocused and he slumped back down again, looking nauseated.

“Hey buddy. Glad you’re okay. The healing potions weren’t doing anything...” Impulse rubbed his shoulder.
“What- that was was that? The shock that hit me?” He quavered shakily.

Xisuma’s expression turned dark. “We... don’t know. Whatever it was, it was strong. We were worried that you would die.”

“But you would’ve gotten my stuff for me. It would have been alright.”

“Keralis, your hearts have been, and still are, full. Whatever that blast was, it hurt you, but didnt do any damage. This kind of power... it could kill.”

They all went silent as that thought sunk in. Something that could harm them... permanently.

Interrupting the sombre mood, Tango slammed open the door, closely followed by Beef.

“Glad to hear you’re doing better!” Tango grinned, and gave Keralis a tight hug. He half laughed, half gasped in pain as his friend hugged him, and Tango quickly let go. Next came Cleo, with Joe and Stress. Keralis noticed Grian, Xisuma, and Iskall backing off to let the other hermits trickle in to visit.

Keralis smiled. He was going to be alright.

~ ⬩ !¡ᒷᔑᓵᒷ, ⬩ ~

Grian silently slipped out of his base. Keralis had recovered quite well over the last week and a half, and was back on his feet. Grian, however, was still curious about what the mask was.

I’ll be careful, he promised himself. If I feel even a hint of the lightning on my skin, I'll snatch my hand back, and leave the mask where it is.

He had built a huge wall, separating the eerie abyss from the rest of the server. Its great stone facade loomed over Grian menacingly as he landed at the bottom. He mined through the wall with his trusty pickaxe, and covered the hole behind him. He was in.

The violet fog was denser than before, and the black spires loomed out of the fog like shadows. After what seemed like an eternity of stumbling over porous tan stone, Grian saw the ground transition into bedrock as he approached the mask.

Warily, he slid down and inspected it. There didn't seem to be any kind of strap, nor were there eye holes. The front had the same symbol as his hands. However, it was definitely a mask, as the bottom was moulded to leave room for the bridge of a nose.

He reached out to touch it. Just before his fingers brushed the mask, flickers of purple lightning raced up his arms. He couldn't move. He couldn't speak. His vision went black for a moment, and strange symbols flashed across his mind. He couldn't read them, however. These characters were not english.

リ𝙹 ℸ ̣ ||ᒷℸ ̣

His vision returned to normal. He was sitting a few metres away from the mask, and he looked at his arm, which was still slightly crackling with thin tendrils of lightning. He shook it, and the lightning faded away.

~ ⬩ ʖ𝙹∷リ ⬩ ~

Grian held up his sketches to the light. He had been curious about the symbols, and he had a plan to figure out what they were, but he needed help. Upon the sheafs of parchment, he had written — or at least tried to write — some of the symbols that he had seen.

The first was like a i and a j without the dots. The second resembled an uppercase J, the third was like a T that was off centre, with a dot at the bottom. Then came two lines, an L with a dot next to it, and another one of those T-and-dot shapes.

He had no clue what they meant, but he was thinking that he should leave something interesting, like a tower or a symbol like the one that appeared in the sky with the other symbols, these symbols, etched into it. Then other Hermits would investigate, and they would help him figure it out, without ever knowing it was him.

He grinned. Just because it was caused by something eerie didn't mean it couldn't be fun. He sat back down on a random box that was lying around, and started to sketch out a plan.

~ ⬩ ᔑリᒷ∴, ⬩ ~

It was complete. Grian ran his fingers through his hair and admired his work. He was the only one awake, but he had only had a few hours. Soon, the server would be awake again, and it would be confusing to have a half-finished building with no-one working on it.

The shopping district was eerie at night, the mycelium giving slightly underfoot. Huge brown and red mushrooms dotted the shopping district, and two mooshrooms watched him balefully from underneath the eaves of the brand new building.

That very day, Grian had worked with Scar and Bdubs to complete it. The smooth brickwork and wonderful sandstone details had taken a toll on them, and they had all said goodnight shortly after. But Grian had secretly stayed. Although he had been exhausted, he had had one last thing to do.

The temple he had built was odd. It had plain stone pillars surrounded by cobblestone stairs. Grian liked the way it looked. It reminded him of something, though he couldn't remember what. The arch leading in was composed of obsidian, and the walls were made of clay with a base of sandstone. He wanted to make it accurate, and sandstone was as close to the odd yellowy-tan stone in the crater as he could find. Inside, tall thin windows of purple-coloured glass painted the walls in a mellow violet glow. At the end of the hallway, Grian had put a sign that read:

Past the pit blasted into the deep
Journey straight west, and rewards you will reap.
As soon as you reach the land of snow.
Seek out a chamber hidden below.

He was actually quite proud of his little riddle. It was pretty easy, and he was sure that the first to stumble upon it would solve it instantly. I mean, that was the goal, right? Grian had gone to the snowy area to the west of Scar's “Big Dig.” As soon as he had reached the tundra, he had dug straight down, and made a spooky underground cave with even more obsidian. It was at bedrock level, so it looked even more convincing, little patches of the unbreakable stone speckling the floor.

He had etched the symbols into the walls, the first three on one side, and the last three on the other. At the end of the cave, he had etched the two Ls symbol, the same as the one on his hands. He figured that he should give them one last fun puzzle to solve, and the pressure plates on the floor showed that. He would have felt bad if they had solved his puzzle and there was no reward, so he had put a chest at the end of the wall that contained a stack of obsidian and some diamonds for them. He had also hidden some more purple glass and glowstone about the place, to give it the same spooky feel.

He grinned as he flew off across the fiery orange sky. Now, all he had to do...

...was watch.

Chapter Text

It stared at him. He stared back.

A tiny blue bird let out a tweet of anger and blinked, looking away.

“Yes! I won! In your face, Professor Beak!” Grian shouted loudly, pumping his fist and rattling the circular windows of his tiny hobbit hole.

The little parrot gave another indignant squawk, and hopped to Grian’s shoulder, giving him a tiny nip of affection. Grian poured a handful of seeds into the bird’s enclosure, and the feathery pet eagerly flapped back over to gobble them up. Grian straightened. It was odd, being back here. It had been a while. He had come here to deposit some more doors and to check up on Professor beak, and all seemed to be in order.

His footsteps padded out of the doorless entrance. He absentmindedly began to kick along a piece of birch left on the floor, the only remnant of the wooden doors that once stood there.

A warm, humid breeze tugged at his cloak as he swep outside. Equipping his elytra awkwardly over his wings, he leaped off the ground. A small flash lit up the jungle as he fired off a rocket, propelling him through the leafy canopy. As he glided over the jungle landscape, he had an idea. He should go visit Mumbo! However, as he approached, he had an gut feeling that Mumbo wouldn't be there. He checked his communicator, and a new message from Scar glowed on the screen. He alighted upon the top of a tree and read it. Grinning, he turned back towards his base. It was time.

Once he arrived, he searched through the chests, finally finding what he was looking for. In his hand he held a clear flask with a bent neck. It was filled with a pearlescent, almost metallic-looking liquid. It was an odd shade of cloudy indigo. As Grian held it, the glow from his hand made it look like the smoke from the crater. Grian took off again, tucking the bottle into his inventory.

He would watch them from the shadows, invisibly.

~ ⬩ ⎓∷𝙹ᒲ ⬩ ~

Scar had just alighted upon the roof of the townhouse. He folded his elytra, and inspected his work. The townhouse was magnificent, overlooking the entire shopping district. He jumped down, and looked at the massive tower of glittering gems, refracting light into rainbows that were crawling along the walls. The Diamond Throne was many times taller than him. He sighed, wondering who would eventually get to sit upon such a glorious throne.

He turned, and that’s when he noticed the tower. It was spooky, and gave off the same vibe as the ones he had seen out the window on the day the world broke. He glided down, tripping as he landed, and inspected the building curiously. It rose out of the water just off the shore of the shopping district. It was dark, foreboding, and eerie. Scar didn't want to enter alone.

“What is this?” He asked himself aloud.

Sitting on the shore of the island, he typed out a message on his communicator.

ᐸGoodTimeWithScarᐳ Guys I found something.
ᐸGoodTimeWithScarᐳ Come to the shopping district.

After a few minutes, Mumbo arrived, along with Ren. They alighted next to Scar.

“It’s over there- see it in the water?” He asked them, pointing towards the massive structure.

The three hermits stood for a moment, staring at the imposing column of stone.

“Well what’re we waiting for? Let's go!” Exclaimed Ren, cracking a smile, “I'll race ya!”

With that, they all rushed down to the entrance of the temple, the shadow of the huge obsidian arch casting an ominous shadow over them. Tall purple glass windows let an eerie purple glow seep across the sandstone floors.

“I wonder who made this?” Whispered Scar curiously as he took a step forward.

Ren stepped forward too, glancing about with interest, “Dunno man. This is creepy.”

“Be careful!” Admonished Mumbo as Scar reached out to touch the glass, “Remember what happened to Keralis?”

Scar quickly drew back his hand.

“Well,” He mentioned quietly, “we don't know for sure that this was made by... whatever did the other thing.”

Ren, who had moved farther into the temple by now, called them forward eagerly, “Would ya look at this? There’s a riddle...”

Scar hopped up alongside his friend, brimming with curiosity, and read the signs on the wall.

“Oh! I think that part is about my big dig!" He exclaimed, pointing at one of the verses, "Grian lent me some TNT for that, he said he has a lot.”

“Land of snow? There's a snow biome?” Inquired Mumbo.

Ren crouched, preparing to fly off.

“Well, let’s find out! Anyhoosie, I'm interested in these ‘great rewards’, aren't ya?” He grinned, retrieving a rocket from his inventory.

Scar chortled in amusement at Ren’s remark, and produced some rockets of his own. Soaring into the sky, he tried to do a small loop-dee-doo, before giving up and gliding in lazy circles, waiting for his friends’ company. The other two hermits blasted into the sky after him, and they resumed chatting, filling the heavens with the sound of their merriment.

Unbeknownst to the three buddies, someone had been hidden nearby. A sudden gust of wind was stirred up as a fourth hermit silently followed them into the icy blue sky.

~ ⬩ ℸ ̣⍑ᒷ ⬩ ~

They had arrived at the Big Dig. The gaping wound in the earth opened up before them, messy outcroppings of stone protruding out at odd angles. A massive circular wall composed of white concrete outlined the hole, providing a neat frame to the messy pit. The charred rocks bore a layer of dust, the powdered remains of the rock that had once been there.

“Aaand that’s where I died...” Sighed Scar, pointing at a smaller, more charred crater in a small cranny of the rock.

Mumbo stifled a chuckle, and absentmindedly kicked a rock into the pit, sending it clicking and clacking down the stony slopes.

“Sooooo it said to go West, right?” Asked Ren, spinning this way and that, holding his communicator in front of him. He pushed a few buttons, and after a moment The display now showed their current coordinates, biome, direction facing, and more info that Ren didn’t really care about at the moment.

“Yeah... that way! I think?” Said Mumbo with uncertainty, now also holding his communicator in front of his face. The light from the screen made his already pale skin look a drained, deathly shade of white. Scar pushed past both of them, “Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!” and with that Scar took off.

Mumbo paused, watching the wizard wing away, “so, um...uh...” He stammered.

“Yeah we should probably tell him...” Ren said, his eyes twinkling with glee.

He and Mumbo watched Scar glide away for a second, struggling against their own exuberance. Mumbo typed two small words into his communicator. Ren’s communicator buzzed softly.

ᐸMumbo Jumboᐳ That’s South.

~ ⬩ ᔑᓭ⍑ᒷᓭ ⬩ ~

They had finally found it. All three of them were covered in dust and bits of snow from the long dig downwards. Mumbo had thought they had the wrong place because they had had to mine downwards so far, but Ren had been sure. Just as the moustached man was about to concede, he had found himself falling into an eerie chamber. Once he had regained his bearings, he called up to the others with triumph, and they soon followed, tumbling down next to him into the massive underground tunnel. It was huge, arching pillars of chalky sandstone rising up the sides of the wall. The group of friends moved forwards slowly. Small torches, aflame and imprisoned behind purple glass danced in their brackets. The fire cast a flickering purple light around the spooky tunnel, and obsidian mingled with bedrock on the floor.

After a short stroll, Stairs led them upwards. Scar started off first, and gasped as he reached the top. Emerging in step with Ren, Mumbo also gaped in awe at what he saw before him. A massive wall of twisting purple glass blocked their way. A pattern of glowstone set into the ceiling shone a nearly blinding violet light into the cave. With only three blocks of space, the floor was carpeted with pressure plates. Stone, iron, gold, and all of the wood variants mingled together in strange patterns on the floor. Scar started sprinting forward.

“What are you doin’, Scar?” Ren inquired, a slight note of worry in his voice.

“It’s just a trick guys!” He sang happily. “No-one has that much TNT!”

“Scar...” Mumbo started worriedly.

“Cmon its totally sa—”

Tss...

Scar was abruptly cut off by the hiss of an explosive being lit. The ground he was standing on began to fall out beneath him. He cried out as he slipped down. The others watched helplessly from the edge of the plates, unable to assist as their friend fell towards his demise. Scar’s yells abruptly cut off as an explosion shook the walls, dust raining down on them from the ceiling. Ren and Mumbo’s communicators buzzed, and they both winced at the message displayed.

Goodtimewithscar blew up

“Oh Scar...” both hermits sighed in unison, and they chuckled dully while they waited for their wizard companion to return.

~ ⬩ 𝙹⎓ ⬩ ~

“NO NO NOT THAT ONE!” Hollered Ren just before Mumbo’s foot touched down, “look at the ceiling!”

Mumbo quickly slid his foot back. Scar had only just returned, after having set off the TNT under one of the many, many pressure plates carpeting the floor. They had puzzled out that the lights at the very roof of the cavern made a safe path. It was like an invisible, deadly maze. The pressure plates sat on top of sand that was held up by tnt. Once the TNT is ignited, however, the sand is free to cave in and fall, and the one who occupied the area will plummet to their death.

“Alright, ya need to take a step to the right—no, left—yeah that’s it.” Ren coached him along carefully.

Mumbo took a risk, and sprinted to the safety of the pale yellow stone, the end of the pressure plate maze. The plate he had just ran over quickly sunk into the floor, and another loud shockwave echoed dully through the ground. He sighed in relief as he touched down, and Ren and Scar cheered from the other side of the puzzle. Suddenly, Mumbo spun on his heel. He could have sworn he had just heard a pressure plate click behind him. Shrugging it off, he reached out to touch the chest. As he did, a small flicker of movement caught his eye. He whirled again.

“Everything alright over there?” Asked Scar, his face bearing a worried expression.

“Y-yeah...” Stuttered Mumbo with mild distress. After one last nervous glance about, he opened the chest. His eyebrows raised as he eyed the contents.
That must've taken ages to mine. He thought.

He quickly grasped the items, and made his way cautiously back through the maze.

Click.

There it was again. There was someone, something else here with them. Mumbo called to his waiting buddies fearfully. “I think there's someone here!”

“Ya just need to go straight!” Hollered Ren, having completely misheard what Mumbo said. Mumbo tried to punch the air a few times, but when he hit nothing, he figured he was simply making himself look like a fool. He could hear Scar struggling to restrain his laughter as Mumbo struck out at the air around him. The redstoner decided to forget it for the time being, and rushed over the final few plates.

However, as he showed his friends his findings, he couldn't shake off a terrible, spine-chilling feeling.

The feeling that he was being watched.

Chapter Text

There was another tall structure in the shopping district. It was full of the porous yellow stone that had filled the crater, and purply mist hovered about its base. Bdubs knew that this massive new stature was the real deal. None of them even knew what the yellow stone and fog were, let alone used it in a build. He had gotten word from Scar that when they followed the directions of the first temple, they were met with an explosive puzzle. Now, he wanted in.

Can’t let everyone else have all the fun!

He hopped up, and flew up into the skies, on his way to see which of his friends he could recruit.

~ ⬩ 𝙹ꖎ↸. ⬩ ~

“Hi Impulse!” Bdubs exclaimed eagerly as he glided over the ocean toward his friend.

“Hey! How ya doing buddy?” Impulse replied with a smile, setting down a piece of glass.

“Pretty good! Pretty good, actually!” He answered, the words soaring off his lips. He took off his elytra and folded it neatly. The straps always dug into his shoulders oddly, so he took it off when he wasn’t using it.

His friend was just finishing putting glass casing around a huge pole. A strip of lights coiled around it in one direction, and a band of blue concrete spiralled the opposite way. There were four of them attached to the base of a large white and grey pyramid. At the top of each pillar, lay a huge disk. The massive structure rose out of the deep ocean blue, kelp and seagrass thriving around its foundation.

“Have you heard about the weird stuff that's happening? This- I- it’s so cool!” Bdubs stumbled over his words, breathing heavily.

“Woah there Bdubs,” Impulse laughed,“ slow down. It’s not all cool, is it? I saw what happened to Keralis in the crater. There was some kind of puzzle, wasn’t there?”

“Yeah! And- and there's another! C’mon! C'mon! Let’s go! ” He attempted to jump off the edge, but Impulse grabbed his arm, chuckling.

“Alright, I'll go. But Bdubs,” he conceded, “You’ll probably need an elytra..." He pointed at Bdubs’ shoulders, bare of any elytra, trying to keep his laughter at bay. He gave up. Both men slumped against the wall, wheezing with laughter and trying to regain their breath.

Wiping tears of mirth from his eyes, Bdubs straightened up.

“Alright! Let’s go!” Bdubs strapped on his elytra and shot a good-natured glare at Impulse. In response, Impulse rocked with another wave of laughter.

~ ⬩ ℸ ̣⍑ᒷ ⬩ ~

“GRIANNNN! Grian, are you there buddy?” Impulse banged upon the large wooden doors one last time.

Bdubs was peering in one of the dark windows.

“I don’t think he's there, he's not home...”

Impulse sighed in disappointment.

“I wonder why.”

Shortly after they had taken off, Impulse had suggested that they bring Grian along too. Bdubs had agreed. The waffle-haired wonder would be a welcome addition to their little adventuring party, but his base seemed to be deserted.

The two hermits flew down to the main storage and interior of the mansion, gliding gracefully between the two stone staircases on either side of the entrance.

The hermits breathed in sharply. The place was a mess. Pearlescent, light purple feathers were strewn about. Shulker boxes were scattered, helter-skelter about the place, and a brand-new desk in the corner had sheets of paper spilling off of its gleaming surface.

The two friends waded through the mess, laughing at their friend’s untidiness. Impulse swiped up one of the papers out of curiosity, and his face quickly transformed from jovial to befuddled.

“Bdubs, take a look at this...” He said with interest. Bdubs looked over, and his friend held out the paper for him to see. Upon its snow-white surface, strange runes were etched.

“What? This is- it's the stuff from the structure that Scar found.” Bdubs sputtered.

Bdubs picked up another sheet of paper. This one had blueprints, some kind of tunnel. Impulse leaned over his shoulder to look. Slipping on one of the many feathers strewn about, Bdubs caught himself on the desk as he fell, knocking a glass bottle to the ground. The crash echoed through the building.

“Hello?” Called a voice, “Who’s there?”

~ ⬩ ⍊𝙹╎ᓵᒷᓭ ⬩ ~

Grian had finally done it. After many late nights of research and study, he had broken the code. The symbols, the ones he has seen, were the same language as in the enchanting tables. He had determined that the message he had seen had said ‘not yet.’ He suspected that it was related to him getting the mask, as was trying to find out more about the language of the crater.

So far, he had actually managed to collect some of the pale, chartreuse stone and had bottled some of the eerie mist too. He was also practising writing the odd runes; in truth, he thought it was fun.

For his latest creation, he had used some of the runes and crater materials he had collected, and the magnificent statue looked a lot more authentic than the last one. He had decided to make it a person with wings. I mean, it did look cool.

As long as I'm careful, no-one will link it to me.He did have to be more careful though. The last time he made a puzzle, it hadn't gone so well.

I was almost instantly rumbled... he thought ruefully.

The clicking of the pressure plates beneath his feet had almost alerted Mumbo to his presence.

To be honest, Grian wasn't quite sure why he didn’t want to be seen. There was just something thrilling about observing others without them noticing you, watching when you cannot be watched.
So, that was why he had continued making structures. The first time was so fun, and he wanted to watch someone else do it. He had planned out a whole new puzzle, this time centralised around parkour. He had put in a fun twist at the end, and was excited to see how it would play out.

Now, he was lounging in his base, and watching his communicator, waiting for a group to begin.

A few minutes ago, it had buzzed, Bdubs asking Impulse where he was. This could be them going to do the puzzle, but he wasn't sure. He had also seen Cleo having a conversion with Joe about his statue, but they had decided against going in.

The sound of breaking glass shattered his thoughts. It had come from the main hall of his storage system.

“Hello?” he hollered, getting up, “Who’s there?”

He quickly fastened his cloak around his shoulders, concealing his feathers. He emerged from the little back room he had made himself, rubbing the dark bags under his eyes, and beheld a strange sight. Bdubs was kneeling on the ground, trying to pick up the remains of the glass bottle, while Impulse was glancing nervously about.

Impulse met his eyes.

“Uhh... hey Grian... how ya doin?”

“Sorry about your bottle...” Bdubs sighed forlornly. He deposited the pile of broken glass carefully into his inventory.

Grian’s face paled. In Impulse’s grip was a sheet of paper. Grian stepped forward and took the paper out of Impulse's hands.

“What brings you guys here?” he said, trying to keep his voice devoid of any worry or fear.

Impulse looked nervous.

“Hey man, sorry for intruding... you busy? ‘Cause there’s a new little tower thing in the shopping district, and Bdubs and I were gonna check it out.” At this last statement, Bdubs nodded excitedly.

Grian sighed and set down the parchment.

“I would love to, but I'm afraid that I'm a bit busy at the moment. Good luck!”

“Oh... okay...” Impulse smiled anyway and took out some rockets.

As Grian headed back around the corner to replace the broken invisibility potion he heard Bdubs say one last thing before taking off.

“I wonder why he has all these papers with the runes... do you think he has something to do with all of this?”

“No, no...” Impulse responded, “This isn't the kind of prank Grian would pull. Besides, Xisuma is sure that no hermit could do that to Keralis.”

Grian exhaled his pent-up breath.

They didn't suspect a thing. Anyways, he hadn't hurt Keralis—at least, not directly—so what was there to be guilty about?

Still, a small pang of guilt pierced his mind whenever he thought of Keralis’ still body, lying in that bed.

Shaking off the weight of his thoughts, he turned and headed into a different room, a secondary storage area. Large piles of dusty yellow stone were strewn haphazardly about the place. Smaller chests could also be found about the room. Most of them contained bottles of the purple mist from the crater. Others were full of invisibility and night vision potions, and a large group of them in the corner were filled with nothing at all.

A brewing stand gleamed in another corner, heaps of materials surrounding it. A small farm was growing nether wart in the third and final corner, diagonal of the entrance, and the odd golden carrot or fermented spider eye had escaped its pile to sit all alone on the floor.

Grian fluttered to the other end of the room, and retrieved an invisibility potion.

Once again, it was time for him to watch.

Chapter Text

HELLO AND WELCOME!
This is the Q&A.
So yeah.
You guys asked questions, and I gave you some answers.
Quick thing before we start, any text in brackets [Like this] <--- (other than that, that was an example by me.), are little comments from my editor.
I dunno why he did that. He's a weird one, my editor.
Enjoy!

~⬩( 'v' )⬩~


Connor_The_Idiot asked:

How do you get the motivation to write long fics?

 

Well, I guess once you come up with the right plot, you’re excited to get to the end and see people’s reactions, so you push yourself to reach goals. I guess one of my major motivators is that if my story gets enough attention, it might also get fanart and that would be amazing. I love seeing how people’s different minds pecive the same story, and how they translate that into art.

 

Daylight_Songs asked all of this:

How did you come up with the idea for this story? Also, did you do this on a whim or plan really far ahead to start with?

Has the story/ your plans for the story changed at all since you started writing it? (Like did you go one direction and then decide 'Nope not happening' and throw your plans off the rails a little?)

When did you start watching Hermitcraft/ get interested in it? (Season-wise or date-wise, maybe both)

In chapter 2, Grian interrupted Scar when they were speaking about something that sounded suspiciously important... is this relevant to something?

The lightning (at the crater) didn't leave damage heart-wise- but apparently does cause pain still. That is definitely creepy and sounds dangerous. But my question is why would it hurt them? I'm pretty sure the goal was for Grian to realize the whole Watcher thing. But I don't see why the threatening is necessary if they're friends.

Is the Galactic stuff supposed to mean something? Is it going to have more importance in the future? I know it's there for a reason but it doesn't make a ton of sense yet...

 

Oh wow. Okay. That’s a lot. I’ll break up the answers into different groups.

1. So I will go into more detail in a later answer, but my main inspirations arose from fanart I saw online and Aayaptre’s fic, ATUS. To begin, I just had the general idea. I jotted down what I like to call my mind vomit. This ignores grammar, continuity, and spelling, and just focuses on the main plot of the story. Again, I will go into more detail in a later question.

2. Actually, I wasn't going to have Impulse and Bdubs invite Grian. However, having just another oblivious pair of people be followed felt repetitive, so I had them find little clues, and I think the story is better for it. The rest of the story has changed several times, however I would have to say spoilers, so I must remain silent...

3. So one summer, I was extremely bored. I had recently gotten youtube on my tv, and I decided to watch some trashy youtube videos to pass the time. Eventually, I decided to try to watch every single Grian video. If you haven't guessed already, I'm a huge fan of Grian. Eventually, I came across Hermitcraft season 6. I watched all of the episodes, and caught up to the uploads around the time that the Architechs were formed. From there while waiting for season 7, I tried to watch Scar, Mumbo, and Ren’s POVs of season 6. However, when season 7 came out, I kinda dropped all of the povs except grian, save for big moments. I continue to watch Hermitcraft up until the present day!

4. So here's the fun part. That was actually done as a joke, the bit that Scar says there, but it's gotta remain a mystery until the end for maximum comedy sooooo... I will say that it's not super important. Think what you will.

5. Lightning is dangerous. This isn't really a spoiler, but I can tell you that purple lightning can injure temporarily and manipulate thoughts. (in fact, it isn't mentioned, but in this fic Keralis has trouble using his arm for a little bit because that is where the lightning hit hardest.) Black lightning, however, is very different, and you can probably guess what it does... It will appear in later chapters. The goal of the purple lightning was not for Grian to realise his watcher powers, right now all he has are bird wings. The lightning is a defence for the mask, not placed there by Grian.
6. So the galactic that is bold in the stories will be translated if it’s important, or will be revealed in a different chapter, but the galactic in the timegaps is just a fun poem I made. It's really long now because my plan for this series has also gotten longer.

Alright! Phew! Finally finished! That was a lot of great questions! On to the rest.

 

Night_Skie asked:

-what was your main inspiration for this? like did it come from another fic or did you have like a spark?

 

Well, I was just looking at some Grian fanart one day when I came across Grian with watcher wings. I was immediately enthralled, and spent about 12 hours just watching animations and looking at fanart of Watcher Grian. I wasn’t sure why most of them were labelled “ATUS fanart” and so I did a quick google search. I was even more confused when I got “American Time Use Survey” as a result, so I tried again with “atus grian” and that's when I found it.

ATUS is an amazing fic that I highly recommend. I blew through in like 2 days. (Credit to Aayaptre, they're an amazing writer!) After trying and failing to make fan art digitally several times, this was exactly what I needed. I may not be able to draw, or cook, or have object permanence [It’s hilarious how true this is...], but I CAN write! [Yeah they can!] That’s where I got most of my inspiration honestly. My plot and character design is very different however. The mask is based off of some fanart I saw that I absolutely loved. You can actually see a list of my inspirations in the summary of the first chapter! Wow, I didn't think I'd get this carried away... I rant a lot. [Can attest. I would say a part of why the story is good is due to them just spilling things out and piecing it together. Instead of waiting for everything that comes out to be perfect, they just cut out the parts you don’t like from all of that “thought vomit”. Also, it’s cute when they rant!]

On to the next question!

L1meEnderman asked:

do you have the whole story planned out? Or is it more you just wanna get from point a to b and then everything in between is made up? Or is it something else entirely?

And Sharlei asked:

how many chapters are planed so far, and how many aren’t. Just want to know to be honest.

 

So I actually do have the whole thing planned out but... it's a bit of a mess. I might post it once I've finished the whole story, but it’s full of a bunch of disjointed ideas and thought vomit. For example, here are some of my favourite snatches from the “notes” for what I've done so far: “Magically taking everybody's doors lol. Mention turf war and prof. Beak at some point. About halfway through the timeline, xisuma's skin should switch to strider. Details, buddy. Just because you're a grian fan doesn't mean the others are unimportant. Also mention grian empire and maybe wheat farm? References, people! ‘Grian flared his wings in surprise’ <----(I like this. Use this.)” So yeah. Not very organised.

For part two of this question, I actually used to be several chapters ahead of my upload schedule, but no longer. Hence the Q&A. I’ve just finished Chapter 6, but the thing is, it's too long so... this is gonna be a two-part chapter... Don’t worry, there aren’t any big cliffhangers this time. Maybe.

 

Sharlei also asked:

how are you do good at writing, I’m working on a fic right now that I will post once I get an account, and my fic makes no sense and has terrible wording. A lot are just re-writes of other peoples fics but also not and I can’t think of anything original. How do you do it-

Umm... boredom. And not wanting to do biology. Cas9 is cool tho. Gene editing go brr. My original career plan was to graduate and become a biologist but I've been considering going into Youtube content creation or freelance writing. Oh wait oh no I got off track and haven't answered the question. I think I have a problem.

AAAAAANYWAYS I'm not that great at writing, it's my dear partner who keeps me afloat! He’s a really good editor. Without him, this story would have numerous flaws in both grammar and sentence structure. I’m really bad at dialogue, so it's good to have him around to help! I love him, he’s the greatest. (He also provides me with emotional support. (We’re all going insane in this pandemic, so wear yer masks!) Lotsa credit to him for how this story has come out [Well... Sure, I helped. But they did the heavy lifting of writing the story!].

Also, I'll take a look at your fic! It might be that you’re trying to force it too hard. Relax. If you don’t feel like writing, don’t. When inspiration strikes, you can write for hours on end, trust me. I wrote the first three chapters of this fic in one sitting before I lost all of my steam, squeezed out one more episode, and went on hiatus.

In conclusion, my inspiration and motivation is fanart, my planning is mind vomit, writing is the only thing I'm good at [Nah, they’re great at many things!], I really love and rely on my editor, and my writing schedule has gone to the dogs.
Thanks for reading!

Chapter Text

“Woah, this place is huge!” Bdubs gasped, looking up.

Towering over them was a massive mountain. A narrow staircase made of stone bricks wound its way up. The snowy peak did not appear to have much atop it, but it glowed with an odd golden light. After a bit of searching they had found the location specified by the signs on the mysterious statue.

They began the trek up the long staircase, voyaging to the snow-covered mountain top. As they climbed, the air became brisk, and the icy wind blew through their meagre clothing.

“W-we p-probably should've d-dressed warmer...” Impulse shivered as they took another step.

“T-too late n-now...” Bdubs responded as he looked down the stairs. They had already traversed almost half of the mountain, and they weren’t turning back now.

About two thirds of the way up the mountain, they paused to rest on a little ledge. Impulse sat down heavily on the freezing ice.

“It’s g-getting dark, we should s-sleep.” He took out a torch, lit it, and stuck it into the ground. The ice and snow around them slowly began to melt away. The men huddled around the flame, rubbing their hands together and wiggling their numb fingers.

“So... sleep?” Impulse inquired, his head tilted to the side. In the warmth of the flickering flame, both hermits had stopped shaking.

Bdubs grinned broadly, immediately pulling a bed out of his storage.

“I have you covered!” He kept a bed on him at all times, just in case.

“Do you have another?”

Bdubs scoffed, and placed down a second bed. “You bet I do!”

Impulse gave him a thankful smile, and the friends settled down to rest. As the sun set, they climbed into their beds, curling up under the warm covers. Bdubs’ vision faded to a deep shade of indigo.

After a moment, he opened his eyes, and found himself standing in the sun again. He stretched after a good night’s sleep. Also stretching, Impulse tried to drag one of the bed’s blankets with him to shield him from the cold. Bdubs laughed, picking up the beds and storing them away in a shulker box. Impulse growled groggily, and reached out for bedsheets that were no longer there.

People who don’t sleep often are always so grumpy...

He thought to himself.

If they slept every night like me, they would all be bright and full of energy!

Impulse groaned again and rubbed his face with his hands. He looked sound with wide eyes. “Where...? Oh... right...”

Bdubs struggled to restrain his laughter. This man was comedy gold.

“Cmon’ Impulse, we should start trekking again. Here.” He tossed his friend some food. Impulse picked it up and devoured it eagerly.

After a few more moments, Impulse was fully awake and they were ready to find out what was at the top of the mountain. For the beginning of the trip, it had only gotten colder, but as they climbed higher, the snow began to melt.

“Well that’s odd... Impulse, does it seem like it’s getting... warmer?” Impulse paused and frowned, before responding with perplexion.

“Yeah... Yeah, I think it is getting warmer. Just look over there!”

Bdubs glanced in the same direction as his friend, and to his surprise, a small stream was running down the mountain. It froze as it went lower.

“That... that’s really weird...”

“Cmon’, we need to find out what’s going on.” Impulse continued, and Bdubs scrambled up the final few stone steps after him.

It was enormous. A huge tower, open to the air, rose out of the ground like a tree. It towered into the heavens, and lava cascaded down from the peak, oozing off the roof in neat streams. The magma dribbled into pits in the ground, and flowed beneath the floor of the building, working its way through narrow glass tubes.

Breathless with awe, Bdubs threw a soggy, half-melted snowball at one of the lava sreams. It hit the cascading magma with a loud hiss, and when the steam cleared away, all that was left was a dark patch of cooled lava, which quickly melted and flowed away.

“This is... magnificent. No wonder the peak was so warm! From the ground, the angle doesn't let us see the tower, only the glow of the lava!” Impulse exclaimed excitedly, “Whoever built this is a design genius.”

Bdubs made his way forward. In the centre, a large glass tube lifted the lava back to the peak, pushing it to pour out of the top again. There was a ladder on the far side, along with a single sign on the pillar that was facing them, pinned precariously to the hot glass. Bdubs read it aloud.

Reach the peak and you will find,
A secret clue that lies enshrined.
The ultimate sacrifice one must make,
Or both lives will be at stake.

“Well, it looks like it was built for only two people. Good thing Grian was busy!” Impulse joked.

Bdubs squatted down, and read the second sign.

Climb the levels one by one,
Do not stop until you’re done.
Once two enter neither shall leave,
Until the final prize they receive.

“Well that’s terrifying.” He finished with a chuckle, “Well, shall we?”

Impulse nodded, grinning, and began to climb the ladder.

~ ⬩ ╎リ ⬩ ~

They emerged on a small platform. In front of them lay a pit of lava along with a chest. Bdubs eagerly reached in and retrieved two fishing rods from its depths. He handed one to Impulse, and they both looked around confusedly. What were they supposed to do? The gap was too large to jump over, and they figured elytras would be cheating. Impulse inspected the room for a bit, before placing down a bed.

“Let’s set our spawn, just in case...” he said. Both men went over to the bed and touched it. A nearly invisible shimmer of light wound its way around their arms briefly. When people interacted with a bed, even if they didn’t sleep in it, it would make sure that that is where they would wake up after dying.

“Wait...” Bdubs walked over to the lava, walking left and right. He took out his fishing rod, and began to fish. After a moment, he pulled the hook back, and tried again. Impulse laughed, and he realised that Bdubs was not making a joke. “What're you planning to do here?”

“Maybe...” He mumbled, paying no heed to Impulse's inquiries. This might actually work.

Suddenly, there was a click. A grin spread Bdubs’ face as a path rose out of the lava in front of them.

“How did you do that?” Impulse wondered in awe.

Bdubs began to walk across the narrow path, and explained, “If there are pressure plates, you can set them off using a fishing rod bobber!” He held up the rod, and pointed to where its string entered the magma.

“Pressure plates can be hidden under the lava! I read it somewhere a while ago.” he finished.

“Nice work, Bdubs. On to the next!” Impulse exclaimed excitedly.

~ ⬩ ⍑╎ᓭ ⬩ ~

The next floor was chaos. Dispensers lined the walls, shooting arrows in a seemingly random pattern. They sat for a while, trying to figure out how to get through. They would surely die if they went through without knowing when the arrows would be fired.

Coloured wool lined the floors and wall. The bushy material was already covered in hundreds of prickly arrows, and even more were still building up, embedding themselves in the soft fabric walls.

“Huh.” Bdubs remarked, “I wonder why they didn’t use concrete.”

“Wait...” Impulse was muttering softly to himself, “red... green... purple... yellow... green again... blue... orange... blue...red... green...”

Impulse looked up from the flying arrows and grinned at Bdubs.

“I’ve got it! It has an order!” Impulse pointed to the colours on the floor and walls. They fired in the same pattern he described, and both hermits laughed in triumph.

They began to make their way across the room, carefully shuffling from one colour to the next. At one point, Bdubs almost went to the next section too early, and his action was rewarded with a sharp arrowhead grazing his shoulder. At the end of the hallway, they both sighed, letting out their pent-up breath. They had made it through.

“Well this is proving to be much easier than I thought it would be...” he said.

~ ⬩ ⍑ᒷᔑ↸, ⬩ ~

They climbed a staircase made of sandstone to the next level. The dusty rock crunched under their feet, sending up small puffs of tan dust with each step.

The next floor was a large room, full of intricate details. Grass covered the floors, and a flower here and there reached out towards the artificial lights in the ceiling. Trees rose out of the earth, their mighty roots grasping the ground. It was beautiful.

“Wow...” Impulse sighed in awe.

Bdubs unequipped his armour and dived into a small pond in the corner. He splashed about, laughing, before grabbing Impulse’s arm and tugging him in too. The buddies took a very needed break as they had fun in the cool, clear water.

Soft sand squished between their toes as they emerged, sopping wet, and walked across the sand lining the pool.

“Huh. where’d this come from?” Bdubs picked up a large lavender feather from the ground. He turned it around a few times, “Weird. It's too big to be from a chicken or a parrot.”

Impulse shrugged nonchalantly, “Dunno man.”

The sound of someone drinking emanated from behind one of the trees.

“Ok, something is definitely going on. What the heck was that?” Bdubs asked in bewilderment.

The friends inspected the room. There were odd buttons placed everywhere, all of them were stone. Probably just detail for pebbles on the ground.

Impulse’s voice called out a few minutes later, “I found something!”

In his hand, an empty glass bottle was held. Residue of some silvery liquid clung to the sides. Impulse dipped a finger in it curiously, and his finger disappeared.

Bdubs’ face paled. “That’s... it's an invisibility potion...”

They both stood up. They knew for sure now. Someone was here.

“Wait...” Bdubs mumbled, connecting the dots, “Grian had an invis potion that I smashed. He is involved! Grian has- he’s got something to do with this!” he exclaimed angrily.

Impulse stood with his friend and put a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey!” he called, “Wherever you are, is Grian selling you the potions? Because I can sell them to you for cheaper!”
Bdubs elbowed his buddy

“Why- Impulse! Are- you’re using this as a marketing opportunity?”

Impulse shrugged with a grin. They joked about for a bit, swishing their hands through the air.

Bdubs sat with a sigh. “So how are we going to get out of here? I think the person left, so how? Where is the exit?”

“Well, there is that iron door, but I can't open it. Must be locked.” Impulse pointed out.

Bdubs grunted as he rose and dusted some dirt off his pants.

“Well, there’s- there has got to be some- a lever or button somewhere.”

They both began searching again, this time for something that would activate the door. Bdubs crawled about, pushing the buttons that they had initially mistaken for pebbles. He saw Impulse shimmy up the small tree and yelp as he fell to the ground again. Finally, after what seemed like ages of searching, he found it. Hidden in a corner behind a small bush was a lever. He flicked it and rejoiced in triumph as he heard the lock on the door click. Impulse ran over and grabbed his hand.

“YESSSSSS! WE DID IT!!!” he rejoiced, pulling Bdubs though the door he had just opened. Once they made it through, they stopped, gaping in amazement. A glass staircase wound up the side of the tower. The sun was setting outside, sending fiery orange and pink lines arcing across the sky.

They walked slowly up the stairs as the sun dipped below the horizon. A small glass doorway opened out onto a glass balcony. In front of them sat two more signs.

Four floors remain of the seven you must complete
And here is where you must decide of you will retreat
There is no means of escape if you continue
So you must find the courage within you.

Hordes of enemies risen from the grave
The way forwards will appear if you are brave
Wander the caverns to the left or right
And one shall fall into eternal night

“These are just getting more and more scary!” Impulse laughed. Both men looked out at the setting sun. The wind gently brushed the leaves and dust out of their hair and tugged softly at their clothing. The fading sunlight warmed their skin as small stars began to twinkle merrily in the heavens. Glints of vibrant orange and yellow danced over the bright glass like small tongues of flame. As day turned to night, the friends took a break, relaxing after a very long day.

Chapter Text

“Good morning Impulse!”

Impulse turned around, realising that his friend was awake.

“Good morning! How’d you sleep?”

“Good! Very good actually!” His wide-eyed friend responded cheerily.

Impulse chuckled as his companion sat up with a start. His bewildered expression slowly faded as he remembered where he was.

He sat up and grabbed his bed, stowing it into his inventory. After the last green bedsheet was safely tucked away, the friends left the balcony. Impulse went first, cautiously edging his way up the glass steps.

He could hear Bdubs’ footsteps tapping behind him, the only other sound was the gentle bubbling of lava nearby. As they made their way farther, a new sound began to grow louder.

The chorus of groans and wails grew almost deafening in volume as they approached a new pair of doors. The walls shifted abruptly into spiky, black obsidian before arcing over two doors that stood before them. Two pressure plates sat on the floor before the doors, tempting the men to walk forward.

Bracing himself, Impulse walked forwards. Bdubs drew up next to him, and they both entered the room. Once they went through, the doors snapped shut behind them, barring the way back. The moans and keens were even louder here, and another set of doors and plates stood in front of the hermits. Beyond the iron barriers, Impulse could just barely see a writing mass of green, decaying flesh, pounding at the doors hungrily.

“Are you ready, Bdubs?” Impulse said, loading a crossbow.

Bdubs nodded, retrieving a sword from his inventory, “Yes. Yes I think I am.”

With that, they opened the doors.

They were immediately separated by the flood of zombies. Impulse kept them at bay with his sword.

How are there so many?

“BDUBS” he hollered, “BDUBS, YOU OK BUDDY?”

A few seconds passed, and Impulse struck down droves of foes. However, several still managed to smack his face.

8 hearts left.

“YEAH I’M—” his friend cut off abruptly. Impulse could just make out the sounds of fighting from the other side of the room.

“I’M OK YEAH!” Bdubs finished exhaustedly.

Impulse fought his way through the writhing horde of monsters. A few made it past his defence and bit him. He grunted in pain, and tossed the zombies back.

7 hearts left.

He could finally see Bdubs, cowering in a corner, barely keeping the mob of creatures at a distance. Immediately, Impulse leaped into action. He swiped his sword through the air. Slicing through the gruesome wall of undead. Bdubs smiled at his friend. He looked considerably more bedraggled, with only 4 hearts left.

“Let’s find the door.” Impulse said, offering his friend a hand. Bdubs took it and struggled to his feet. They turned towards the horde with Impulse in an attempt to hold them off. Another group of zombies made it past Impulses’s defence, and overcame him for a moment. Bdubs tore the vile beings off of his buddy and fought them back again.

“Are you alright?” he asked worriedly.

“Yeah... I think so...” he responded shakily.

6 hearts left.

Slowly but surely, they fought off the horde of beasts. During the battle, Bdubs accidentally slashed his sword in the wrong direction.
“Sorry! Didn’t mean to hit you.” he sputtered quickly before turning his attention back to the horde.

5 hearts left.

Now, the path out was clear. A set of doors stood at the end of the long hall, and the two friends began to work their way toward it, abandoning the fight to focus on running.

4 hearts left.

He shoved open the doors, and let Bdubs through first.

3 hearts left.

They ran through the doorway, but the zombies flooded in after them.

2 hearts left.

He faltered as the horde pressed in around him.

1 heart left.

A flash of metal, the slam of a door. It was over. Bdubs stood over him, holding a sword. He had slashed them back just in time, and closed the doors.

“Hey... thanks...” Impulse muttered wearily.

Bdubs grinned, dusting his sleeve.

“It's what friends are for, right?”

Impulse sat up, and Bdubs helped him prop himself up against one of the obsidian walls. They both took a moment to eat. The superficial injuries on their skin faded away, and their hearts regenerated slowly.

They both sighed, feeling the ache of their injuries ebb away. The hall was made of obsidian. However, ahead it transitioned into a cobbled tunnel. Moss clung to its walls, and dust coated every surface. Cobwebs hung about the tunnel, But they seemed to have been long abandoned by the giant arachnids that made them. They sat for a bit, regaining their strength.

~ ⬩ ⍑ᒷ ⬩ ~

Once they had both fully recovered, the two men took tentative steps forward. The click of a tripwire made them tense, but when no tell-tale twang of a trap answered, they let out a sigh of relief. As they went farther, they tripped over multiple fake traps, which sent shivers up their spines and put their nerves on edge.

Finally, after continuing down the tunnel for what seemed like ages, they came to a vast moat of magma. There was no bridge, no buttons, nothing. The gap spanned across 6 metres, the molten rock within bubbling slowly.

“Well how are we supposed to get past this?” Bdubs sighed in exasperation.

Impulse was already wandering about, craning his neck to inspect the nooks and crannies of the room.

At one point he got himself stuck in one of the giant cobwebs, and Bdubs had to come to the rescue, slashing through the sticky fibres to free his companion.
“I dunno Bdubs, this has me stumped.”

“Maybe we should try looking at this from a different perspective. "What if there's... er... a hidden pressure plate or something? Like the first floor? We should look, just to be safe.”

“Hmm... maybe. I’m- I’ll try it.”

Craning his neck in an odd position, Bdubs used his peripheral vision to examine the lava.

“AHA!” He cried out in triumph. He refocused back on Impulse and grinned broadly, “There is something under it!”
Impulse smiled back, “We make the best team! What is it though?”

“Not sure,” Bdubs responded promptly, “but I don’t think it was pressure plates.”

Both buddies sat back down and began to think.

What could be under there?

They tried reaching under it for a chest, but came back with nothing but a burnt hand.

They tried to find hidden levers or buttons with the same result.

They even tried throwing some odd bits and bobs from their inventory into the molten mess, but to no avail.

Hot and tired, they lay down on the dusty floor.

“Man, this is a hard one.” Impulse lamented.

“I just- I've got nothing...” Agreed Bdubs, closing his eyes and sighing.

Suddenly, Impulse rose. Bdubs cracked his eyelids and watched his friend.

Impulse craned his neck, looking across the lava to the other side. After a moment or two, he crouched down.

“What’re you- IMPULSE!” Bdubs shouted as his friend launched himself into the boiling pit of molten rock. Impulse winced as he fell into the lava, but began sinking down through it with a determined look.

“IMPULSE! ARE YOU OK?!” Bdubs called, his eyes wide with panic. It hurts to die in lava. It's one of the most painful ways to perish. After several long moments, Impulse answered
“I’m fine! The door up there is a decoy! There’s water right under here. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book!”

Bracing himself, Bdubs leaped too with a wild yell, trusting that his friend was right. Sure enough, after a few moments of painful burns, he sunk into a layer of cool and refreshing water. He sighed, letting it cool his blistered skin.

Impulse was waiting for him when he dropped down. A real doorway led out to a staircase of dusty grey clay just behind him. Bdubs healed up with a bit of food, and approached his friend.
“Well that was awful.” he stated, “What do you think is next?”

Impulse shrugged.

“Let’s find out!”

~ ⬩ ᓵ∷╎ᒷᓭ ⬩ ~

“Hugging the wall is better! In the long run, you'll go faster.”

“But what if it's- what if the exit is in the middle?”

“It’s never in the middle!”

“Oh yeah? I’ll race ya!”

“It’s on!”

Bdubs turned right, Impulse turned left. It had begun.

After swimming up an old-fashioned water-and-sign elevator, they had been presented by a large maze. It was made of an odd combination of snow pillars and clay walls. Impulse pressed his hand against the smooth grey surface. He was gonna beat Bdubs. He followed the wall, on and on. He turned down dead ends, around loop-dee-doos, and even found stairs once. He had gotten so excited, thinking that he had beaten Bdubs to the end, until realising that it was a multi-layer maze. Eventually, he stopped, breathing heavily.

Where the heck is the exit?

He sunk to the floor with a sigh.

I wonder how Bdubs is doing.

~ ⬩ ⎓𝙹∷ ⬩ ~

Bdubs was not doing much better. He had been taking random turns for so long. The expanse of dusty clay seemed endless. He kicked a pebble on the floor absentmindedly as he walked. He had found some stairs leading down and leading up, and one time, he had glimpsed Impulse walking through an adjacent hallway. Bdubs had continued forwards, paying no heed to his friend.

Impulse didn't notice him, set as he was at the task at hand.

It seemed like he had covered the entire three-floor maze. Every turn seemed to lead to a dead end. He had even started marking off tunnels that led nowhere with a torch, but he had almost run out.

Right now, he was at a four-way intersection. Three of the paths had flaming torches marking them. Every path those led to was a dead end. Now, there was only one option left. Sure he had finally made it, Bdubs strode forward, turned the corner, and immediately smacked into Impulse.

Both men fell over, rubbing their foreheads where they had clashed together. They met eyes and laughed.

“You’re going the wrong way!” Bdubs taunted him good-spiritedly.

Impulse frowned, “Well I've checked all of the paths in this direction...” he gestured behind himself with a thumb.

“We’re- I suppose we’re going in the same direction now!”

Bdubs placed a torch at each of their feet, and they continued down the one remaining hall, all the way back to...

“The start? What?” Impulse exclaimed angrily, “How is there no exit? How do we get out?”

Bdubs cocked his head to the side, “I have- I’m clueless, Impulse. Maybe we should go back down.”

Impulse paced for a moment, thinking, then sighed, “Alright.”

As Bdubs stepped into the cool water, however, Impulse seemed to notice something.

“Bdubs, wait! There's a button here!”

Bdubs hurriedly backed out of the elevator and pushed the button. There was a faint click, and a door opened on the other side of the water. He dove though the stream and arrived at a ladder, leading up into another room.

Impulse followed, swimming across just as the stone slid back over the entrance.

He sighed. “So I guess that entire maze was a pointless distraction. How many have we done?” he asked.

Bdubs took a moment, ticking it off on his fingers, “Six, I think.”

“So this next floor is the last one...”

“The rewards better be good, after all went through!”

Both men sat for a moment and laughed.

“I wonder what the final puzzle is.” Bdubs mumbled.

“It’s probably pretty hard.” Impulse responded, closing his eyes.

“Lets... let’s just take a little break...”

A third person, hiding invisibly, began to panic. Empty bottles cluttered his
inventory. The other two needed to hurry. He was almost out of time.

Chapter Text

Here it was. The final trial. The last set of signs stood before each door.

There was no poetry, no riddles or tricks. The one on the right read:

One shall live, if the other shall perish.

And on the left, it was written:

One shall perish, for the other to live.

Two signs. Two choices.

“Let me.” Impulse started, stepping towards the doorway on the left.

“No! Remember the false lava? And the maze? I would have been stuck there forever. Look, whatever comes next, you deserve to get the final reward.” He grasped Impulse’s shoulder and pulled him back, beginning to take his place.

Impulse frowned as his friend opened the door, “No... no this isn't right...”

Bdubs turned and smiled, “I’ll see you on the other side, ok? We’ll share the prize, whatever it is!”

The door swung closed of its own accord, the latch clicking with a sinister finality.

Impulse turned away. His footsteps tapped across the dusty wooden planks. The right door lay open before him. Impulse reached out and touched the gnarled wood. The whorls of a knot entranced him, and for a moment he became distracted by the natural detail in the wood. He shook it off, and pulled open the door.

Inside, he was met with a foreboding sight.There was glass between them, making it easy for Impulse to see Bdubs in the other hallway. He waved cheerily, unaware of the sobering sight Impulse beheld. Looking above the stone near Bdubs’ head, he saw a tunnel, filled with sand. He knew that if the rock was removed, it would mean a long and painful death for his friend.

He spun around, inspecting the compartment. Behind him sat a chest. He peeked inside cautiously, finding an odd amount of levers in the chest. He grinned, placed one on the wall and almost flipped it.

What if there’s redstone in the wall... what if it drops the sand?

He glanced back at his friend. Bdubs’ normally cheery face was shrouded with perplexion. He gestured at the lever Impulse had placed and mimed pulling it.

Impulse pointed at the ceiling and wiggled his fingers in the air, trying to symbolise sand falling. It took a few tries, but eventually Bdubs caught on. The blood drained from his face and he slid to the floor, leaning against the locked iron door.

After a moment. Bdubs straightened. He looked over at Impulse, and smiled sadly. He nodded, pretending to pull the lever again. Impulse shook his head again.

No. I am not going to be responsible for killing my friend. Not after we came all this way together...

As if reading his mind. Bdubs put his hand against the glass, and pointed at the lever again. He breathed on the glass, and used his finger to write out a message.

Go win for me, ok?

The cool of the glass seeped into Impulse’s hand as he too placed it on the glass. Bdubs removed his hand and leaned against a wall, seemingly unperturbed by the fact that he was about to suffocate. He took out a torch and inspected the flickering flames absentmindedly. Impulse grasped the lever. Its smooth cloth-wrapped handle pressed into his hand as he shoved it downwards. With a soft click, the stone slid open, and the sand cascaded down onto his friend.

Impulse turned away as the sand reached Bdubs’ middle. He didn't want to watch this. The path ahead lay open to him now, the iron door unlatched.

Impulse let go of the lever, and strode slowly into the final area. As he did, he thought he faintly heard the yells of his dying friend. He didn’t turn back.

~ ⬩ ⍑╎ᓭ ⬩ ~

It was suffocating. Bdubs gasped for air as sand pressed in around him, pouring over his hair, his clothes, everything. As dust piled up around him, he noticed Impulse walking away, heading into the final room. He smiled. He smiled.

He did it!

Just as he was about to resign to his fate, he remembered something. As the sand continued to pour around him, he stuck a torch into the sand. Any sand that fell upon the torch dissolved into items, which Bdubs picked up. As the last bit of sand faded away, Bdubs cried out in triumph. He had survived. Now, to find a way out.

For a moment, he fiddled with the door, and realised it was still locked.

After a few seconds of thought, he decided to refrain from breaking the glass.

I still want to play somewhat fairly...

Eventually, he turned his attention to the sand he had collected. Technically, he hadn’t mined it, so he could use it without feeling like he was cheating. Maybe the only way out was... up?

“Woah...” Bdubs mumbled as he emerged from the narrow sand chute. He was standing in a tunnel, the floor made of glass. He glanced down at it. It seemed to lead from the outside of the temple. However, when he checked, the hallway seemed to drop off into midair with no staircase.

He explored the other way, but before he reached the end, he found something else. In the dimly lit hallway, two glowing, violet eyes stared out at him from the dark. The eyes widened, and the person - at least, he thought it was a person - turned, and began to run down the hall. It left a couple of shining lavender feathers in its wake.

Bdubs gave chase, hollering after it, “Wait! Are you the one who has been making the puzzles? The one who caused the crater?”

The mysterious figure ignored him and exited through an iron door. Bdubs followed. He was going to capture this strange individual, the culprit he assumed was responsible for the strange events on the server.

~ ⬩ ꖎ𝙹ᓭᓭ, ⬩ ~

Bdubs was dead. He was the one who had invited Impulse on this crazy trip, and now he was dead. Impulse sat down on the floor of the dimly lit room, stunned. A spiral staircase led upwards, growing ever dimmer, illuminated only by the occasional redstone torch. He was going to share the winnings, it was only right. His eyes slid closed as he processed what had just happened. Then, faintly, he heard a familiar voice.

“Bdubs? Are you-”

And then a creature landed right in front of him.

“What the-”

“GET IT!” Roared Bdubs, pushing past him and giving chase to the feathered figure, which was already fleeing up the spiral stairs. Impulse took a moment to register.

Bdubs isn't dead? How did he survive? And what is the thing he’s chasing?

He shook himself. What he should be doing now was helping Bdubs. They could discuss what had occurred later. He loaded a crossbow and equipped his chestplate, preparing for a fight. He was glad he thought to bring them. He rarely carried spare armour. Hefting his sword out of his inventory, Impulse joined the chase.

Up the stairs they went. Bdubs swung at the person several times with his sword, but missed. In a particularly shadowy bend on the stairs, it turned, striking Bdubs with its fist. Bdubs fell back, but Impulse caught him, and they both hastily resumed the chase.

Finally, they reached the top of the staircase. A dark hall met them, the round ceiling encased in gloom. The figure turned, and Impulse hesitated, seeing the glint of a smile, the dim red glow of a torch reflecting off of teeth. The figure placed some iron, and held a small gourd in his hands. Bdubs didn't hesitate. He took the opportunity to swing at the stranger, and as he did, it placed the gourd.

Bdubs sword collided with a clang. The noise resounded through the chamber, like a bell tolling in the night. A thud shook dust from the ceiling as an enormous iron golem shuffled towards Bdubs. A high-pitched, crazy laugh tore from the mysterious figure’s lips. Instead of running, it sat, watching with glee as Bdubs was chased by the iron golem.

Bdubs held his shield up, and Impulse swept in to the rescue, slashing at the enormous golem. His feeble weapon barely left a dent at first, but after a short time, cracks began to appear all along the beast’s arms and torso.

“IMPULSE MY SHIELD IS GONNA-”

CRACK.

THUD.

And Bdubs was launched across the cavern. His face contorted with pain for just a moment, before he dropped to the ground. Slowly, his limp body dissolved away, leaving only his items, hovering just above the ground, and a few glowing orbs. Impulse stared in horror, but he couldn't look for long. The golem came for him next. All the while, the stranger just laughed, and watched as he fought the golem.

After many minutes, Impulse emerged victorious, his clothes bloodstained and his body bruised. The stranger seemed disappointed. It turned away, sprinting towards escape, but Impulse followed. Bdubs could have survived, but this stranger had killed him. It had watched and laughed as Bdubs died. Impulse growled.

I’ll get it for ya, Bdubs.

He rounded one more bend, and was blinded by bright sunlight. A huge, open balcony with a chest in the middle awaited him. At the very edge, the cloaked figure stood. In the light, glimmering feathers encompassed the stranger. A red hood and cloak covered everything else, making it impossible to identify. It crouched, and spread its beautiful, silvery wings. It shook them out, preparing to take off. I

mpulse let out a yell, and loosed an arrow from his crossbow. It arced through the air with a buzz and hit the person right in the leg. The figure cried out and fell, over the edge, plummeting towards the ground far below. Impulse laughed harshly in triumph. It was a hard, joyless sound.

He sprinted to the edge, hoping that the arrow had pierced it's wing, but it was not to be. He saw it gliding away, wings glinting like stars. He felt something slippery beneath his boot, and discovered a feather. Upon its silvery surface, a splat of blood was visible. The red was swirled with a bright purple, as if it was laced with magic. He shook his head in confusion. He needed to tell the others.

But first, the prize.

He propped open the chest and sighed. The rewards were not worth the gruesome death of his friend, but it was still good loot. A beacon, along with a stack of diamond blocks, four stacks of iron ingots, two stacks of quartz blocks, and six stacks of logs all sat inside the chest. Luckily, he had brought shulkers. If he hadn't, he might've had to go through that whole tower again. He shuddered. Never again.

He realised that his communicator had been buzzing incessantly for some time now. Worried messages flooded the screen in response to the death of his friend.

Bdubs was slain by Iron Golem
ᐸMumboJumboᐳ Oh dear...
ᐸcubfan135ᐳ What happened?
ᐸFalseSymmetryᐳ I don’t know. Where is Bdubs anyway.
ᐸTangoᐳ Not sure. Thought he was with Impulse.
ᐸRenthedogᐳ Where is Impulse?
ᐸTangoᐳ I think they were going to do the new challenge or whatever it is.
ᐸZombieCleoᐳ Ohh so that might have been part of a puzzle or something?
ᐸGoodTimeWithScarᐳ Yeah!
ᐸGoodTimeWithScarᐳ The last one killed me several times!
ᐸMumboJumboᐳ No one else died Scar.

The keys clicked as he responded, keeping it brief.

ᐸimpulseSVᐳ Everyone, we need to arrange a serverwide meeting.
ᐸimpulseSVᐳ I have a new lead.

Chapter Text

Grian's shoulder was throbbing with pain by the time he flopped to the ground in front of his base. An arrow was embedded in his upper arm, lacing his shoulder with waves of agony. He had really messed up.

It was going so well...

He lamented.

What did I do wrong?

He winced, pulling himself a bit farther into his base so no curious eyes could see him. He feebly downed some golden carrots, quickly healing the wound, but the arrow remained.

Ugh... this is gonna take a while to go away...

He sighed and tried to carefully remove his bloodied jumper. Luckily, the arrow’s shaft pierced his shirt not far from where he had cut the wing holes. With a small snip, he was able to painlessly remove the garment. Next, he began to wash off the blood, but instead paused, and stared at it curiously. The blood on the top was a bright purple, but the blood underneath from the initial wound was a normal blood red.

Purple blood is kind of cool.

Something vibrated softly against his leg. After a moment, he realised it was his communicator. He finished washing off the blood and retrieved it, reading what it had to say. Apparently, Impulse was now arranging a server-wide meeting.

Oh no. Did he see my face?

He thought back, remembering what had occurred that day. No, no, there wasn’t any flicker of recognition on either of his friend’s faces, only a cold fury in Impulse’s as Bdubs had died. The communicator hummed incessantly as the server reacted to Impulse’s messages. He didn't see what the big deal was.

I didn't do anything wrong.

He groaned. This was an issue. The messages rapidly flooding in seemed to agree that the meeting would happen in 45 minutes, give or take. He hoped that the arrow would disappear before then. He knew he shouldn't have put himself in danger of discovery like that, but... it was so exhilarating. Bdubs had cheated death, so it was only fair that Grian remedied that.

You murdered your friend.

A traitorous part of his mind whispered softly.

He shook his head.

“No, no!” he responded, talking to himself, “It was part of the puzzle! It was all in good fun! It was only fair for him to die. Anyways, I didn't kill him, the golem did!”

But you enjoyed it, didn’t you? You liked watching your ‘friends’ struggle and die.

He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ignore his own dark thoughts. He stood, shook himself, and began to mumble quietly, reassuring himself.

It was all for the right reasons. It was just a game, right?

Only a game.

~ ⬩ ᒲᒷᒲ𝙹∷╎ᒷᓭ ⬩ ~

“Thank you all for coming!” Impulse said, standing over the crowd of hermits. The soft buzz of chatter silenced.

“We’re still missing a few people, but they will be here soon I hope.” Bdubs stood beside Impulse, his face pale.

Mumbo frowned.

I wonder what happened.

Impulse continued talking.

“About an hour ago, as some of you saw in the chat, Bdubs was killed by an iron golem.” Heads nodded in the crowd. Beef arrived, drifting into the crowd on his elytra.

“Now this was no accident. That tower had traps laid out everywhere, but we both survived every single one. However, upon escaping, Bdubs was met with a stranger. Bdubs? You want to tell this part?” Impulse stepped back, letting Bdubs take the stage.

“It... it had glowing purple eyes, and I saw- there were these huge wings, white and purple. I chased it, and it attacked me. It hit me. Impulse and I both chased it... but then it built a golem. As I swung at the stranger, I accidentally hit the golem, and... well, you all saw what happened...” He let that hang in the air for a moment, and the room was deathly silent.

Mumbo shivered. Being killed by an iron golem was a painful ordeal.

Impulse took over and continued the story, “As the golem attacked him, I tried to kill it, but the stranger, he just laughed. He liked watching us struggle. This person... I don’t think that they are a player. They felt different. After I beat the golem, the person tried to fly away. I managed to hit it with an arrow, and here’s what I found.” He held up a small, silvery object.

Mumbo inhaled sharply. Impulse held a feather, splattered with blood. However, there seemed to be purplish liquid swirled amongst the red. Grian glided in and landed smoothly next to him.

“What’d I miss?” he whispered.

Mumbo explained the situation hurriedly. When he stopped, flickers of confusion rippled across his face. His friend’s lack of reaction was a bit worrying.

“Are you ok, buddy?” He asked.

“Y-yeah...” His face was waxen. Mumbo assumed he was simply scared, and turned his attention to Xisuma, who was now addressing the crowd.

“...and be careful. If you see anyone with wings, do not approach them, just report it to me and we will gather a party to search. Impulse, is there anything else you want to say?”

Impulse spotted Grian. His eyes widened, and he opened his mouth, but Bdubs interrupted.

“Nope! Nothing else! Thank you all so much!”

Impulse stood and began to protest, but Bdubs gave him a look and shook his head ever so slightly. Impulse stopped, sitting down.

The hermits began to disperse, and rocket smoke soon filled the air as people took off.

Mumbo began to lift off, “You coming buddy?”

Grian seemed nervous, “Uhh... I’ll be right there, you go on without me...”

“Alright...” He responded softly.

Something is definitely up with Grian...

~ ⬩ ℸ ̣⍑∷ᒷᔑℸ ̣ᒷリ ⬩ ~

Impulse grabbed Grian’s shoulder.

“Grian... can we have a word with you?”

Grian winced. So this is it. He had finally been rumbled. He sighed and followed Impulse off to a more secluded area, farther away from where a few hermits still stood, chatting with one another. Bdubs was waiting there, sullen-faced.

“Grian, we saw that you’ve been brewing invisibility potions.” Impulse stated. It wasn’t a question.

“We- It would- If you know anything, it would really help. We... We don't want anyone else to get hurt. Just- You should tell us, who are you selling the potions to?”

They don’t know!

He silently rejoiced, and smothered a smile. He could keep his secret, for now, “I’m not sure, actually. I just keep finding orders for them at the barge. I get paid a lot...”

Impulse let out a sigh of relief, “I knew you weren’t up to something. Ever the businessman, eh?” He nudged Grian jovially in the shoulder. He winced. It was still tender from the arrow.

“Y-yeah! I’ll stop selling them. I don’t want anyone else hurt either.” He responded, smiling back.

“Have a good one!” Bdubs hollered as Grian took off.

As he began to glide over the ocean, a sudden headache overtook him. As the burst of pain throbbed against his skull, he wobbled in the air. His vision flashed to black, and he plummeted towards the waves. He felt lightning crackling around him as he fell, and bright purple characters began to appear.

||𝙹⚍ ᔑ∷ᒷ ∷ᒷᔑ↸||

As he opened his eyes, his body plunged into the ice-cold water. The violet lightning surrounding his body flashed brighter for just an instant, then vanished. He smiled ear to ear. He was ready.

Chapter Text

Back in the crater.

This time, the heavy mist was almost pleasant. Oddly enough, it gave him a feeling of nostalgia. He wasn't sure why he had been so freaked out before.

After a bit of walking, Grian realised that he could take out his wings without risk of discovery.

He unclipped his cloak and let it fall to the ground, the red fabric sliding away from his feathers. Violet and white. Beautifully coloured plumage, glittering and glistening despite the heavy purple fog. He spread them wide, exercising the sore muscles. Keeping his wings cramped under his cloak for so long made it feel even better to finally stretch them out.

Giddy with excitement, Grian began to run, sprinting over the uneven stone. He leaped into the air and took off, letting a wild laugh tear though the silence of the crater. It felt marvellous, the purple mist streaming past his wings.

As obsidian towers loomed out of the mist, he darted and weaved between them. He could now alter his course with ease, feeling the air pushing him higher, his feathers shifting his direction and speed. Feeling daring, he turned down into a steep dive, pointing the tips of his wings inwards and tucking them against his body. Just before he hit the ground, he snapped out his wings, catching the air and sending him soaring once again.

He wished this feeling could last for all eternity.

~ ⬩ ℸ ̣𝙹 ⬩ ~

After some time, the porous endstone began to transition to grey, unbreakable bedrock. He drifted lazily towards the ground, aiming for the pedestal. Looping through the mist, he drifted down and alighted softly in front of the pedestal. A pang of fear shot through his mind.

Keralis...

The dark object upon the pedestal was just as mysterious as before. Grian inspected it for a few moments. Its shining black surface was like no other material he had ever seen. It was similar to obsidian, but it had no purple divots. It was almost like staring into the void. A symbol, the same as the symbols glowing faintly on his palms, was etched into the smooth material. It had a small crease in the bottom. The dark material curved gently away from the middle of the item, with small lines like wood grain winding their way across its surface.

Shaking off his fear, he tentatively reached out. This time, there was no lightning, no flash, no wave sending him crashing onto the cold rocky ground.

He simply picked up the mask.

A shiver went up his spine and he promptly dropped the mask in surprise. When he realised that nothing had happened, he carefully retrieved it. The mask was cold, and up close, its texture kind of looked like an oak sign, but black.

Thrilling excitement goaded him forwards, and abandoning caution, he pressed the mask against his face.

For a moment, everything was black.

And then he could see.

His eyes were still covered, yes, but he was able to sense his surroundings, to see in a way he had never seen before.

He could see everything.

The mist no longer got in his way. He could see the tall obsidian towers rising out of the ground, and he could spot intricate engravings etched into the pillars. The world was slightly tinted purple, but that wasn't a bother. He smiled and shook out his wings. They felt larger now, and bits of his feathers were now an inky black. However, he didn't have long to admire his new plumage.

He could have sworn he had heard the crunch of footsteps approaching, but he could hear nothing now. He began to move again, but the sound of footsteps resumed, closer this time. Grian panicked, darting over to hide behind one of the dark pillars.

After a few moments of waiting, he spotted someone walking towards the clearing. Someone with a bright yellow suit.

Xisuma was making his way to where the mask used to be. He was holding a compass, but it seemed to be broken. His yellow suit stood out brightly against the grey bedrock, making him look out of place in the foreign landscape.

The bee man knelt, looking for the mask. He stood up, puzzled, as he came away empty-handed. Grian realised something.

Why would Xisuma want the mask? Does he know something?

A black object on the ground glinted slightly, and Xisuma eagerly snatched it up.

Grian breathed in sharply. One of his new, darker feathers was clasped in Xisuma’s hand. The bee man quickly straightened up at the noise of Grian’s breath, realising that he wasn't alone. His voice echoed confidently through the eerie expanse.

“Hello? I know you’re there, show yourself!”

There was a moment of silence. Xisuma tried again, this time failing to conceal a slight note of fear in his voice.

“I just want to know what you did. Are you here for him?”

Grian tried to remain as still as possible. He knew that Xisuma couldn't see him through the lavender haze, but he was still nervous.

Here for who?

After another moment, Xisuma seemed to give up, realising that the stranger must have fled, and began to make his way back out of the crater. The crunch of his boots slowly faded away. As he left, he softly muttered.

“Not again...”

Only once Xisuma’s footsteps had fully faded into the distance did Grian finally relax. He slid down the pillar and sat on the ground. After calming down, he realised that something was off. He looked at his legs, but where they should have been, two large talons extended. He lifted his hands, and inspected them. His nails were long and pointed, and his arms were covered in feathers. He quickly pulled off the mask and sighed in relief as his body went back to normal.

When I'm like that, maybe...

A broad smile spread across his face.

Maybe, I can’t be recognized.

~ ⬩ 𝙹⍊ᒷ∷∴⍑ᒷꖎᒲ, ⬩ ~

Grian was back in the mesa.

The heat was a bit more bearable this time, and Grian was excited. He was perched by the edge of one of the streams that resolutely wound their way through this harsh and dusty landscape.
He had decided, seeing as he stayed here so often to practice flying, to construct a small hidden base. On a hill, semi-hidden by some cacti he had placed, a small sandstone staircase led into a sandy underground hideout. Because of its location by the river, it maintained a cool and comfortable temperature.

Grian pulled something out of his pocket. It was the little black mask he had tried on earlier. He was both excited and a little frightened about what he would see. Before he could change his mind, he pressed it to his face once again.

Curiosity immediately rushed over him, and he sprinted to the riverbank to see his reflection. An odd bird-person looked back. He was still wearing his jumper, but his hair was interspersed with feathers now, and his ears were little feathery poofs, like an extra pair of wings.

He looked down to inspect his hands, which were again talon-esque, small claws extending from the tips of his fingers. After admiring his new shiny talons, he looked down to inspect his legs. They were now feathery and bird-like, and he found that his shoes were beginning to hurt. He pulled them off and found that his feet were now long and narrow, clawed talons replacing his toes.

A thin tail protruded from his behind, and at the end, a fan of feathers splayed out. He spread his wings, frayed red strings clinging to the feathers. Small patches of dark feathers were now scattered across them. They stood out from the rest of the pale lavender and silver in stark contrast, pitch-black, as if someone had spilled ink on a sheet of parchment.

He glanced back at his reflection in the slow-moving river. His face was covered by the mask, which somehow stayed on when he let go. The part of his face that wasn't concealed had grown small feathers, shining on his jawline like glitter. A small poof of plumage peeked out of the neckline of his shirt.

Two thin halos, the colour of amethyst, wound around his head, intersecting right above his forehead. Letters in the strange alphabet of the enchanter moved along it. The huge, haunting shape of an eye hovered just over his head.

He figured that a simple shirt would do. He dug through the depths of his wardrobe for several minutes.

Finally, behind an odd greenish cloak and some red and blue armbands, he found an inky-black garment, silver embroidery adorning the sleeves and collar. He couldn't remember when he had got it, but it fit in with his new outfit wonderfully.

He grinned, the feathers on his cheeks glittering in the sunlight. He looked amazing. He looked nothing like the Grian his friends knew.

He could get away with anything like this.

Chapter Text

This was bad.

This was really, really bad.

The mask was gone.

Xisuma dug up some dirt on the jungle floor and dropped down, down into a chamber he had hoped he would never need.

A large stone chamber echoed as Xisuma splashed down, a small pool of water breaking his fall. A rough, unadorned alcove held a single chest. Xisuma approached it, removing his helmet. He took a deep breath. The underground air was musty and stale, but he didn’t mind.

After Generkib had passed on his role as admin, he had shown Xisuma a secret. The thing that gave admins power over their servers.

Rust fell to the floor as Xisuma creaked open the latch of the chest. Inside, small, grey objects sat. They were blurry, as if you were seeing them on the edges of your vision, and no matter how hard you tried to focus on them, they remained blurred. Xisuma reached out and grasped one, taking a deep breath in. He closed his eyes, and let go.

~ ⬩ ᔑリ↸ ⬩ ~

It was like a fever dream. He saw a surge of files and code. The name “Minecraft,” flashed before his eyes. He saw the nether shifting, new fungi and structures rising from lava and netherrack.

~ ⬩ ⍑ᒷ ⬩ ~

He opened his eyes. A cool draft swept in from the outside of the cavern as he lay there on the ground. The world felt different. A shiver ran down his spine and he shook himself.

It was chilly, far too chilly. He needed to get somewhere warm. Rubbing his arms, he checked his communicator.

Currently, every single player except himself was in an offline state.

Good. No problems there.

A player who enters the offline state simply disappears. No one knew quite where they went, but they were no longer shown on the “tab” screen of the communicators. Different hermits would come online at different times, but it was very rare for all of them to be offline at once.

Very lucky, I suppose.

He flew out of the underground chamber and covered it up, placing grass and stone over it, and finished the job by replanting some shrubs. Once he was finished, it looked as if he had never even been there.

He realised that his elytra no longer resembled bee wings. It was back to its normal silvery appearance. His doomsuit was now an odd shade of purplish-red. As he fastened on his helmet, he found that it too was purpley, several thin white feelers poking out of the sides.

Xisuma ran a few tests to make sure all was in order. He placed a torch and made sure it lit its surroundings correctly. He looked at the world around him, making sure nothing had glitched. There would likely be some issues with farms, but he was sure those could be easily remedied.

Now, to check out the new nether.

The bee man took off once again, darting up onto a hexagonal platform. An immense nether portal, surrounded by another giant hexagon, loomed above him. He was glad that he had repaired all of his armour and tools before the update; who knew what he would find on the other side. Without further adieu, Xisuma stepped in.

This was much better. He kept his eyes closed for a moment, basking in the warmth. When he opened his eyes, however, he was dismayed to see that he was completely encased in netherrack.
His suit now shone a beautiful crimson, and his body felt much warmer. With a twirl of his hand, he took out a pickaxe and began to mine his way out to explore the new nether.

He had been hoping to get all of his friends together to explore, but he couldn't risk it now. He had to keep it a secret that the server had updated. Surely if they all gathered together in the nether it would be obvious that he had updated, and that he was preparing for the worst.

Luckily, with all of the events in the overworld, Most of the hermits were busy trying to keep up to date as well as build their bases. No one had been or would be to the nether for a while.

Honestly, not much had changed in his current area. The biome was nether wastes, the only noticeable differences were the piglins wandering around. Xisuma had come prepared, however, and after being attacked by the pigmen one too many times, he had put on a golden helmet. That at least made the piglins tolerate him, even if they weren't exactly friendly.

Now, for his plans. It seemed best to get this done immediately, before any of the other hermits were back. He always tried to stay up to date about what was coming, so he now knew of a powerful new material...

Powerful enough to kill them.

He hoped it wouldn't come to that.

However, it surely wouldn’t hurt to be prepared.

So he went to work. His pickaxe glinted in the mellow golden glow of the lava as he began to mine down, down into the depths of the nether. Once he had mined down far enough, he checked his communicator.

He inspected the y-coordinate, which currently displayed that he was at y-level 15. He would need to go down two more metres.

Once he had reached the correct depth, he took out two shulker boxes. The stiff purple shells each held different items. The first was overflowing with bushy grey wool, the other packed with wooden planks. That was all he would need. He set down a crafting table next to the boxes. He sat down in front of the workbench, grabbed some wool and wood, and began to craft beds. However, they weren't for sleeping in. No, these beds were going to become explosives.

An odd thing about this world was that you could only sleep in the overworld. If you tried to get into a bed in any other dimension, it would immediately explode, often leaving the unfortunate hermit dead. This could be used in Xisuma’s favour, however, and the strider man was going to do just that.

Once he had filled all of the available space in his inventory with beds, he unstrapped his elytra and took off his golden helm. In their places, he equipped some shining diamond armour. Ghostly light rippled across the armour’s surface. These would protect him from the blast.

The netherrack groaned as he broke it, as if protesting its destruction. A small 1 by 1 metre tunnel opened before him, and Xisuma placed one of the beds at the very end.

Well, here goes.

Hoping his methodology proved correct, he reached out and tapped the bed.

Red dust fell from the roof as the explosion shook his tunnel. Xisuma found himself engulfed in flame and quickly extinguished it.

Once the fire was put out, he stepped back to admire his handiwork. A flaming crater stood before him. No signs of what he was looking for, but he hadn't lost more than a heart of damage from the blast.

On only his third try, he found what he was looking for. A panelled block, brown and wrinkled with age, was embedded in the roof of the second crater. He mined it greedily, grasping the clump of debris and inspecting it. Only one. It would need to be refined quite a lot, but it would be worth it. This was going to work!

Xisuma grasped another bed and continued to repeat the process. Hole, bed, explode, extinguish. Two more debris. Lucky. Only 477 more to go. He sighed, but continued. It was a necessary pain.

He would also need a ton of gold, but he already had that covered. A gold farm he had made beforehand was already working away as he mined.

~ ⬩ ꖌリ𝙹∴ᓭ ⬩ ~

After about 2 weeks of mining, he was worn out. He had only had small breaks here and there to sleep or eat. He didn't have enough netherite - not even close - but he couldn't bring himself to mine a single block more. His shulkers of bed materials had been refilled multiple times, he had had to repair his battered armour at least 3 times, and he was covered in burns, some big, some small.

He would continue this tomorrow, but for now, he needed some rest.

He exited the nether and, without bothering to leave the portal platform, slipped into an offline state.

~ ⬩ ⍑ᒷ ⬩ ~

In the months following, Xisuma was not to be seen anywhere in the overworld. Instead, he was in the nether, blasting his way through the spongy maroon stone. It took him several weeks to finish. He was so absorbed in his work that, when he was about halfway done with work, the mayoral election date had come and gone. However, in the brief moments when he was in the overworld, he heard that Scar had won.

He would be a good mayor.

He had thought.

Finally, after 3 months of slow and steady progress, he was done.

In his inventory, he held 7 and a half stacks of ancient debris. Perfect.

He was ready.

Chapter Text

The election.

Oh no.

The election is today.

Grian had completely forgotten that Mumbo was running for mayor! He scrambled about, gathering posters while putting on his white, promotional t-shirt. He tried to push his wings beneath, but it hurt the joints, so he ended up slitting the back of yet another shirt. Soft leather tightened around his shoulders as he strapped on his elytra and hastily folded his wings beneath it. It looked a bit odd, but if he kept wearing it, no one would notice.

He shuffled away the pile of purple garments he had made the day before into a secluded corner of his base, and slid the mask into his inventory, for safekeeping.

He emerged from his base and into the bright sunlight, wincing as it glared into his eyes. His elytra spread out as he lifted off, soaring over trees and ocean.

The ocean was peaceful, small white-capped waves moving lazily across the surface. Sunlight danced merrily as it shone into the water, and clouds of fish darted this way and that.

Up ahead, a large island emerged. Greyish-purple mycelium coating the land, giving off small grey poofs of spores every now and again. Huge mushrooms, looming far above player height, rose from the ground. They were bright vermillion with white speckles and domed caps, or light chocolatey mushrooms with flat tops, like tables made for giants. Most of the island, however, was coated in a diverse selection of buildings. Lakes and ponds stood between them, warm and shallow.

Grian alighted in the centre, where several empty vials stood. Coloured dust was piled in chests in front of each. Quite a few hermits had already gathered in front of the massive town hall, chatting with each other jovially. Laughter floated through the entire district. Making his way over, Grian darted up to the hermits, waving merrily. A few waved back with a smile.

Once he had made his way past his friends, Grian entered one of the voting booths and filled out a small slip of paper. He took a moment. All of his planning, all of his support for Mumbo, all of it came down to this.

He took a deep breath, and scrawled down his vote.

Once he had put it into the chest, he closed his eyes, loading all of the voting slips into a shulker box, including the votes for dogcatcher. Once he had finished, he emerged from the wooden stalls.

“Now we just need to wait for everyone to gather ‘round!” He exclaimed, talking to himself. He smiled and plopped down onto a nearby staircase.

~ ⬩ ᒲ⚍ᓭℸ ⬩ ~

Finally, there were enough people to start. He was astonished at the turnout. He quickly listed them off, counting to make sure everyone was here.

False, Mumbo, Cub, Joe, Beef, Etho, iJevin, Tango, Hypno, Impulse, Wels, xB, Bdubs.

Grian noticed that Xisuma wasn't present. That was odd.

He said that he would be.

Grian shrugged. It was time to begin.

“Welcome, everybody to... I guess... the announcement? It was just yesterday we all gathered together for some bad news, but this meeting is for some good!” He looked around, noticing many people wearing supportive Mumbo moustaches.

“I’m pleased to see so many moustaches in the audience today, this bodes well!” A few chuckles rose from the crowd.

“Right, we’ve actually got quite a lot of votes to get through, so I reckon we should crack on.”

Grian took a few dramatic moments to read off all of the votes for dog-catcher.

They were all in Joe’s favour except one, which voted for Daffy Duck. After they had all finished congratulating Joe, Grian moved on to the mayoral polls.

“The first vote is for... Stress!”

Polite claps resounded from the audience as pink powder was deposited into the vial for stress.

“The next one is for... False!”

Yellow powder was added to False’s vial and more soft applause ensued.

He announced the next vote simply, “GoodTimesWithScar!”

The next few minutes were spent listing out the votes. After all had been said, Grian announced the totals.

“False got five votes, Stress got six, Mumbo got...”

Grian heaved a sigh.

“...Mumbo got zero votes, and finally, Scar comes out on top with 8 votes!”

As the powder on Scar’s vial was filled to the top, a firework shot up, sending bright orange sparks twirling through the air.

Grian laughed.

“Mumbo... We... we didn’t get a single vote...”

“I- I know Grian...” Mumbo chucked, “We’ll... We’ll be having talks later...”

“Alright.” Grian responded, and he began to laugh as he realized that neither his moustached friend or himself had voted for Mumbo.

Scar removed his promotional merchandise, sighing, “I’m so glad to take that moustache off...”

They all laughed and messed around for a bit, congratulating Scar and complimenting him on his new position as mayor.

Upon the horizon, Grian spotted something dark, watching the events unfold from a distance. Grian's smile faded.

Suddenly, as his friends rejoiced around him, Grian’s vision flashed. The world took on a purple hue, and his head began to throb.
towards him, calling his name.

Suddenly, the feeling subsided. His friends were gathered around him, and Scar tried to reach out and help him out.

Panicking, Grian flinched back, dodging Scar’s helping hand. This garnered even more concerned looks, especially from his jungle friends.

“I’m all good... I’ve just been having a few headaches lately.”

His friends began to hesitantly disperse again, casting him some concerned looks. Cleo paused for longer.

“You sure, Grian? You look paler than usual.” She laughed.

“Yeah! I’m all good!” Grian responded, the usual spark of enthusiasm returning to his eyes. He got up with shaky hands, and continued rejoicing Scar’s success.

~ ⬩ ꖎᒷᔑ⍊ᒷ ̣ ⬩ ~

“Hello, not-mayor...”

“Hi...”

He and Mumbo were on the end rods in front of their robotic creation, Grumbot. Grian felt a pang of guilt. He had somewhat neglected Grumbot since they had built him, leaving him to be taken care of by Mumbo. The robot seemed to regard them both as parents, and both Grian and Mumbo saw the gigantic robot as their son. The bot was inactive at the moment, probably asleep. Grian whispered to Mumbo, trying not to wake him.

“I... I think we should let him believe you won..”

“You know, I was thinking the same thing...” Mumbo responded sadly.

“It's for the best. He’ll be happy. “ Grian stated.

With no further conversation, they set to work. They built a giant enclosure, big enough to convince Grumbot that the reality he was in was true. They added a moustache to show Mumbo had won, and the build was complete. Mumbo put together a quick mayoral outfit, and then stood in front of their mechanical son, ready to introduce him to the false reality he would live in for the rest of his days.

Grian took out a diamond, and etched something into it. His hands were still shaking, and he almost dropped the precious gemstone.

Mumbo Won the Race! :)

He hesitated for a moment, looking back at Mumbo, but his friend nodded. He slid the jewel into a slot and pressed some buttons on Grumbot. The robot seemed to be awake now. He looked down at his dads and his eyes stared at them fondly. His moustache shook a bit as he thought.

A small sheet of paper shot out of a slot.

GRUMBOT’S LIFE HAS MEANING.

Grian and Mumbo sat down and looked fondly at their son. He was happy now. For the first time, his eyes were bright, twinkling with the robotic equivalent of joy. However, they briefly switched to sadness as one more sheet of paper shot out.

Mumbo picked it up and read it.

The redstone engineer turned to look at Grian, concerned. Grian stared back, “What does it say?”

Mumbo silently passed him the paper.

MAYOR DAD, IS OTHER DAD OKAY?

“I’m...” he began to say okay, but choked on his words. The past few weeks rushed back to him.

No... no, I’m not okay... what do I do?

Grian swallowed, and tried again, “I’m o-okay.”

Mumbo looked into his eyes and whispered, “Grian, you are clearly not. For the sake of Grumbot, you can tell him you are, but... you know you can tell me anything, right?”

Grian sighed and nodded, “I’ll tell you after we finish this.”

He walked up to Grumbot. His son’s eyes were still sad, concerned for him. He etched another diamond.

Don’t worry, I’m fine!

Grumbot shuffled his moustache, and this time there was no response. His eyes went back to happiness, and he seemed to shut down, falling asleep again.

They exited behind Grumbot, just in case he was still awake, and sat on the roof of the simulation.

“Okay, what has been going on with you lately? You almost completely abandoned my mayoral campaign, you haven't been building ANYTHING, and whenever I come to your base, the doors are locked. You’ve been looking really pale lately, are you alright?”

Grian faced a moment of indecision. It felt so terrible, to have the weight of his secrets on his chest. Maybe he could trust Mumbo. He was his friend. Steeling himself, he made his decision. “You... have to promise you won’t tell anyone...” Grian spoke softly.

Mumbo put a hand over his heart.

“I swear I will keep your secret, Grian.”

Grian looked about, then gestured for Mumbo to follow.

“Come with me.”

~ ⬩ ℸ ̣⍑╎ᓭ ⬩ ~

Mumbo chuckled, “I didn't even know there was a mesa down here!”

Grian nodded.

Mumbo went to put a hand on Grian's shoulder, but he winced away.

“Grian...?”

Grian's face was dark and nervous. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment and then opened them, “You promise?” he asked one more time, pleadingly.

“Of course buddy.” Mumbo reassured him.

Grian took a deep breath, reached up, and took off his elytra.

Shining white wings spread out in the sun, magnificent and breathtaking. Silver and light purple feathers glinted like stars, winking at him.

Mumbo took a step back.

“Grian- how?”

Grian seemed on the brink of tears.

“I- i don’t know... I have no idea what’s happening!”

“Hey, hey,” Mumbo gave Grian a hug as the Bird-man began to cry. The funny, always cheerful attitude was peeled away as Mumbo watched his friend cry for the first time. Mumbo held him as he cried, and there they sat.

After a minute or two, Grian sat back up, wiping tears off of his face, “Sorry...” he half-sobbed, half-laughed, “I wish I knew what was going on...”

“Don’t be sorry. I’m here for you. We’ll figure this out, together. Besides. I think they're beautiful”

"You do?"

"I do."

As the sun set on the mesa, the two men hugged one another, A comfort in all of the uncertainty.

~ ⬩ !¡ꖎᔑᓵᒷ. ⬩ ~

Behind a veil of darkness, a creature watched them embrace. It scoffed coldly and began to collect materials. This was unacceptable. If it didn't intervene, the experiment would fail.

I won’t let this happen a third time.

Chapter Text

Mumbo laughed aloud, joining his friend in jubilation.

Grian was soaring high above, so high he looked no bigger than a sparrow. Suddenly, Mumbo watched his wings fold in, and Grian plummeted towards the ground. His laughter was wild and free, echoing through the sunlit skies.

Ever since Grian had told Mumbo about his wings, the playful hermit had seemed lighter, having gotten a weight off of his chest.

Mumbo had been brighter too, and the server had moved into a sense of peace. Grian truly had a big influence over everyone on the server.

Mumbo remembered a time before Grian, in the fifth season. His smile faded for a moment. It had been a bad season, especially towards the end, with a few hermits becoming almost permanently offline. After that, hermits rarely saw each other at all, so Xisuma decided it was time to start anew.

And then came Grian.

They didn't know where he came from, he was just there, standing next to Xisuma when they all arrived in the new world. Only Xisuma knew where the new hermit had come from, because Grian himself didn't seem to remember anything. Maybe he had just appeared, someone who had come into the world along with the coming of the sixth season. Who knows.

Once, Mumbo had tried to get an answer out of Xisuma, but the devious admin had dodged the question.

From the very first moment, Grian filled the server with life. His wacky shenanigans and crazy pranks brought the hermits together like never before. Sure, the past worlds were fun, but Grian...

He made the server exciting.

A gust of strong wind almost knocked the Redstoner over as Grian alighted on the ground, chuckling breathlessly.

Mumbo approached his friend as he landed, fixing his dishevelled hair as he did.

“Those are some magnificent wings you’ve got there. Looks more fun than an elytra, anyway.”

Grian turned to him with wide, twinkling eyes, “Much more!”

“Wait...” Mumbo stepped closer to the birdman, reaching out for his wing. Grian winced back, and he quickly withdrew his hand.

“Sorry, did I-”

“No, no! Go ahead. I’m just... not used to having them out in the open like this...” Grian assured him.

Mumbo reached out a second time and gently spread the feathers, inspecting them. They were breathtaking.

“Do you reckon...”

Grian looked at him, returning the moustached man’s mischievous look.

Mumbo released the wing, “Do you reckon you could lift me?”

~ ⬩ ᔑ╎∷ ⬩ ~

It was a bad idea.

Mumbo sat, dazed, his once-pristine suit now smudged with dirt. Both he and Grian were now gnawing sadly on golden carrots, lounging on the dusty ground.

So now we know: never try that again...

In hindsight, it was a bad idea to jump off the cliff. They should have tried to take off from the ground first.

Oh well...

Mumbo sighed. He and Grian had spent all day messing about, testing the capabilities of his wings.

Grian also seemed to have no idea about where the wings came from or who the stranger on the server was, but there was something he was still hiding. Mumbo wasn't going to push, however.

Grian will tell me when he’s ready.

After recovering some hearts, they stood up again.

“Well, what next?” inquired Grian, excited.

Mumbo grinned, strapping on his elytra, “RACE YOU TO THE MANSION!” he called, soaring off into the sky.

“HEY-” Grian called, giving chase.

West they flew, across the arid mesa, as the silvery moon began to rise.

The dry, hot air of the badlands was soon replaced with moisture as they dove into the jungle. Showing off, Mumbo began to zigzag between the trees, Grian in hot pursuit. He hit some vines, and Grian roared past him, taking the lead.

Mumbo disentangled himself, and fired off several rockets, going even faster. Grian suddenly darted to the left. Mumbo slowed and realised that Stress’ base was just up ahead. He took the opportunity to re-enter first place, letting Grian make his way around the base instead. Stress was just emerging from one of the doorways, her dark hair decorated with rows of colourful flowers. Mumbo waved cheerily as he rocketed past her.

The trees suddenly came to an end. He could see the mansion, just up ahead!

I can make it!

He fired off rockets at breakneck speeds, flying towards the entrance.

And then he smacked into a wall.

Dazed, he spiralled towards the ground. A sigh escaped him as he noted that Grian had already arrived. The cheery fellow was already jogging over to make sure he was okay. Downing some food, Mumbo sat up, looking for what he had hit.

Ah.

The great hall that had once lay open was now barred with a large wooden door. Mumbo looked up at Grian and mumbled, “When did you get a door installed?”

The bird-man chuckled, responding to him with a grin.

“Sorry ‘bout that... forgot I put those in.”

As Mumbo shakily got to his feet, Grian shoved the massive doors open and gestured for Mumbo to go on through. Now, he could see why his buddy had put in the doors. Small silvery feathers carpeted the place. Piles of plumage were stacked in a few corners, evidence of many unsuccessful attempts to tidy up the place. There were also pieces of paper here and there, which Grian quickly shuffled into shulkers.

He cleared the feathers from a few chests and sat down with a sigh of relief.

The feathers were slippery under his shoes as Mumbo made his way over to Grian and sat.

Framed by the gigantic door frame, the moon shone out of the sky, full and bright. They sat on the chests, wondering at its beauty. A small fog moved over the land, coating everything in a thin layer of dew.

“Pretty, isn't it?” Mumbo remarked.

“Yeah...” His friend responded.

Mumbo looked at his friend. The moonlight lit up his face, making it seem to glow, and the bright pinpricks in the sky were reflected in the man’s bright purple eyes.

“Wait, Grian, were your eyes always purple?”

Grian jumped, startled by the sound of his friend’s voice.

“Oh... yeah that happened... I noticed them around the same time I got the wings.”

“Maybe we should tell Xisuma about all this, run some experiments, figure out-”

“No! No... Don’t tell anyone. Please...”

“Okay, okay, it was just an idea.”

The friends sat in silence for a moment.

“So do you know anything about the stranger on the server?”

Grian tensed.

He knows something, all right.

“N-no. No, other than selling potions.”

“Oh?”

“Y-yeah, I kept getting these mysterious letters asking me for invisibility potions. I don't know who left them though.”

What are you hiding from me, Grian?

Mumbo shook himself. He was probably just paranoid. He could trust Grian to tell him whenever he was ready. It could wait.

“Uh...Mumbo,” Said Grian, interrupting his thoughts, “Who is that?”

A figure was fast approaching them. It grew larger and larger, its dark frame silhouetted against the moon. It landed in the doorway, a faint and eerie purple glow emanating from it.
An odd elytra was strapped to its shoulders, inky black instead of the usual grey.

Mumbo stood, as did Grian, and they took a few steps back. He glanced at Grain, and found that his friend's face had gone deathly pale. The figure was tall, too tall, and its body seemed out of proportion. mumbo squinted against the moonlight, trying to focus on the figure instead.

As it came closer, clouds moved over the moon, removing the shadows that had enshrouded the mysterious personage.

With a start, Mumbo realised that no, there wasn't an elytra on its back.

There were a pair of wings.

Chapter Text

The figure drew closer.

“Uhh, hey who are you?”

The figure stopped. The lights of the mansion now illuminated its body. It stood tall and imposing, nearly three whole metres tall. Its slender limbs and neck almost resembling an enderman. Grian was surprised to see that it wore a mask similar to his, the only difference being a silver rim on theirs. It wore a dark cloak with purple symbols stitched into it, and deep purple feathers poked out of its plumage here and there. Whatever it was, it wasn't a player.

Without warning, it lunged towards Mumbo, black metal flashing through the air. Grian acted without thinking, grasping the creature’s arm just before the blade landed. For a moment, the air was still. Mumbo scrambled away, but the creature followed. Its blade swept along its deadly course again, but this time, Grian was prepared. He met the sword mid-air with a sword of his own. The clash was deafening, the black material clanging against the diamond one Grian held.

“You belong with us...” It hissed, trying again to make its way past Grian.

He held his ground to give Mumbo time to get away. Unfortunately there was only one exit to this mansion, and that was the doors they were fighting in front of.
The Stranger seemed to realise this, and would fall back whenever Grian attempted to move the battle away from the door.

Grian briefly slipped on one of his own feathers, losing his balance.

Fiery pain blossomed from his side, tendrils of light purple electricity coursing along his ribs as the blade made contact.

It spoke softly, its voice almost pleading.

“I don't want to hurt you, Xelqua...”

Grian collapsed, clutching his forehead.

A stone statue, sitting in a pond. A meteor, striking a building. The statue of an angel.

Grian opened his eyes as the pain abated. A yell echoed through the mansion.

“Grian!”

Ignoring the throbbing wound in his side, Grian got up. Behind him, Mumbo lay on the floor, looking towards Grian with fearful eyes. The stranger stood over him, its sword pointed straight at his throat.

Despite knowing he was too far away to do anything, Grian spread his wings and sprinted towards the creature. He reached out a hand and, to his surprise, pale lavender lightning struck the stranger in the face. Its sword dropped, narrowly missing Mumbo and dissolving into grey smoke. The stranger turned.

It held out its hands almost pleadingly, its voice slightly softer.

“You were never meant to play. Come with us. You belong with us.” it whispered.

Grian shook his head.

“Who is Xelqua? Leave me and my friends alone!”

He lunged at the stranger, slashing at them with his sword. The Stranger chuckled and grasped the blade of his weapon, bringing it to a complete standstill. They swung at Grian’s head, and he winced, closing his eyes. He could do nothing. When no blow came, Grian opened his eyes. The stranger was now writhing, a sword embedded in their shoulder. Clinging to their back was none other than Mumbo Jumbo.

Grian’s relief was short-lived. The stranger seemed enraged by now, and a wild cry escaped its maw.

“We're here for you! You need us, Xelqua!”

Grian started towards the fight, but the stranger was now cracking with a strange, deep purple lightning. Realising that they were going to lose, the stranger struck the ground.

The next events came in flashes. A massive electric shock that left his ears ringing. Flying back, high into the air. Pain as he fell to the ground with a sickening thud. The stranger taking off, black feathers flying into the air in their wake. Mumbo lying on the ground, looking deathly still.

Grian struggled to stay conscious. He needed to make sure that Mumbo was okay.

This all happened because of me...

He painfully pushed himself up to his feet. He still couldn't hear well, the ringing in his ears was loud as thunder. Vision blurry, he made his way over to Mumbo. His friend was gaunt and, when Grian reached down to pick him up, his skin was cold. Grian had to get help, now. He tried to fly but collapsed in pain. He must’ve broken one of his wings when he fell.

Slowly, Grian stumbled towards Scar’s big dig. He had only made it about one-third of the way before he began to give up. Mumbo was heavy, and Grian’s head was now throbbing. He could barely hear, and his vision was beginning to grow dark.

Faint yells began to grow louder, but they were muffled as if deep underwater. His vision blurred, and a figure clad in red was running towards him. The yells grew louder, but Grian couldn't stay conscious. He felt strong arms catch him as he fell, finally giving in to his injuries and fatigue.

~ ⬩ ʖᒷリᒷᔑℸ ̣⍑ ⬩ ~

An explosion rattled the forest.

Both men looked up from their conversation and gaped as they saw the plume of smoke rising from Grian's mansion.

“That didn't sound like TNT.” Iskall remarked, his robotic green eye glinting in the sun. He was a bit shorter than Xisuma, and wore a bright lime shirt that matched his eye exactly.

Xisuma stood, “We should make sure everything’s okay.”

Iskall nodded, typing into his communicator.

ᐸiskall85ᐳ Hey grian, are you okay?

ᐸiskall85ᐳ Me and xisuma just saw a huge explosion at your base.

After a few minutes, there was still no response.

After a few more minutes, both men wordlessly set off towards the mansion, drifting over the canopy on their elytra.

The moonlight lit up the jungle, bouncing off of deep green leaves. Beautiful, but eerie.

When they arrived at the mansion, the sun was just beginning to rise, faintly illuminating the horrifying scene they beheld. There were feathers everywhere, black, purple, and silver, but most of them were charred to a crisp. A huge explosion had destroyed part of the mansion, searing the wood and stone black.

There were no signs of life, but no signs of death either.

Silently, the men searched the remains. Soon, Iskall found a sword, coated in deep purple blood.

“Do you think this is the same person who built the temples?”

Xisuma shook his head, “No, that blood is a darker shade, and doesn't have any of the red hints the other blood did.”

Iskall nodded, “Good point.”

They were about to leave when Xisuma noticed some charred feathers that seemed to have been pushed aside. Now that he looked closer, red and light purple blood splotched the ground, leading in the direction of Scar’s base.

“Iskall, I found a lead!” He called.

The Swede immediately flew over, waves of charred feathers and dust billowing up as he alighted. Both men coughed a bit as the ash filled the air.

“This can’t be good. Should we follow it, or go get backup first?”

“We should follow. Even if the thing is dangerous, it’s badly hurt.” Xisuma gestured to the bloodstained ground.

They began to follow the trail. Their path was mostly clear, any underbrush having been trampled by whoever had gone this way. Only after a small amount of walking, Xisuma spotted a figure in the distance. A figure in a bright red sweater.

Iskall had recognized him too.

“Grian! Grian, are you okay?”

Both men swooped in and landed just as their injured friend collapsed.

“Are those... wings?” Iskall uttered curiously.

Xisuma did not respond, running towards the hunched figure.

Grian was holding someone.

Mumbo!

His suit was crumpled and bloodstained and half of his body was badly burned.

Iskall quickly rushed forward, taking Mumbo from Grian's arms. Xisuma tried to talk to Grian, but the Hermit was nearly unconscious.

As he toppled over, Xisuma caught him. He was surprisingly light, and Xisuma lifted him with ease.

Xisuma looked down at his injured friends, "We need to get these two somewhere safe..." Purple blood was splattered over his sweater, and one of his wings was bent at an odd angle.

I didn't think they would come for him so soon...

Xisuma and Iskall took off, wobbling in the air with the weight of their friends.

They soon fell back to earth, landing with two puffs of leaves. They would have to go on foot.

Xisuma hoped they could help their friends in time.

Chapter Text

Grian slowly woke up, groaning. It felt as if his entire body was on fire. He kept his eyes shut. After a few minutes, there was the creak of a door, and he heard approaching footsteps.

“Xisuma, what’s the big deal with the wings? They're prob’ly just cleverly disguised elytra, like yours.”

It was Iskall speaking, his voice annoyed.

Xisuma’s response was soft, contrasting his friend’s frustrated tone.

“Iskall, I know this will be hard to understand, but those are real wings, and they are not a good sign. I- Grian had a life before this server. Now, the events of his past are beginning to catch up to him. We need to keep him here, or else they will make history repeat itself.”

“Who are ‘they’? Xisuma, what happened?”

“That’s a story for another time. We need to keep him isolated for his own safety. And... we need a way to contain him if... if things go wrong.”

He heard Iskall sigh.

“Alright Xisuma. I trust you.”

Soon after, Grian heard Iskall’s footsteps slowly fade away. However, Xisuma had not left the room. A nearby wooden stair creaked as the strider man sat, letting out a breath.

“I'm so sorry about this... I thought they couldn't find you here. Why did you take that mask... now I’ll have to... move you to a safer place. It will keep you safe from them... And the rest of us safe from... from you...”

As the red-suited man’s footsteps left the room, the door clicked closed. What Grian just heard echoed through his brain.

...it will keep the rest of us safe...

...from you...

He shifted a bit, but stopped, the slight movement causing one of his wings to throb angrily.

Wait. My wings.

They know about my wings.

Grian quietly sat up. His whole body ached, sores and bruises from the fight still stinging. He tried to stand, but he had to sit back down, his head momentarily throbbing. He tried again and was able to look about. His ankle was sore, and wrapped in bandages.

I must have twisted it when I collapsed.

He was situated in a small room made of stone. Barren except for a torch, sputtering on the wall.

It’s quite dismal in here...

There were bandages wrapped around his otherwise bare torso and, as he tried to stretch, he realised why his right wing hurt. More bandages were wrapped around it, and a splint held it straight.

He made his way to the door, using the rough and dusty walls for support. He took the handle and gently turned it, being as quiet as possible. He stepped into the narrow hallway, spotted with a few doors. Grian peeked into a few curiously.

One had a map, with small, inked-in banners. One was labelled the crater, and the others were labelled with the structures Grian had built. Fresh ink formed another banner, by what used to be the stairs of his mansion. The map had been updated, and Grian was shocked to see a charred crater with the stony steps all but gone and the foundation nearly crumbling. He would have to fix that as soon as he got back.

Moving on, he peered into another room, it was very similar to his base. Papers covered the floor, but on a desk in the middle, a bloodstained feather sat, along with a charred stone, from his mansion, he presumed.

He went past a few, before one opened before him.

“Oh!” Exclaimed Iskall, almost running into Grian, “You're awake! Hey Xisuma, he’s awake!”

Pounding footsteps could be heard a ways down the hall, and Iskall gave him a soft hug, “Glad you're ok.”

Xisuma approached from a little ways down the hallway, looking slightly out of sorts. His armour was now an odd purpley colour, and rows of white feelers poked out of his helmet.

“Grian!” he exclaimed with a smile. The admin was much taller than the other two men, his head nearly touching the ceiling.

“Uh... so... I guess you guys know now...” Giran awkwardly gestured to his wings.

To Grian's surprise, Impulse laughed.

“They look pretty convincing, not gonna lie! How’d you get so many feathers though?”

“Wh-what?” Grian stuttered, confusedly.

Xisuma glared at Iskall.

“I already told you, they're not fake. I had to bandage one of them.”

Grian inspected his wings and sure enough, the one on his left was tightly bound in white bandages.

The secret was already out, there was not much point in trying to conceal it.

“Iskall... Xisuma’s right...”

Grian spread out his uninjured wing and flapped it a few times. His lavender plumage glinted slightly in the torchlight.

“What?! How? When did this happen? Why didn't you tell us?” Iskall began to ask more, but Xisuma put a hand on his shoulder, and the Swede fell silent.

Xisuma grasped both of Grian's shoulders, and though Grian couldn't see his eyes through the tinted helmet’s visor, he could feel Xisuma’s eyes boring into him.

“Grian, I have a very important question for you. Please, answer it truthfully. For all our sakes.”

What Xisuma had said earlier flashed through Grian's mind once more.

We... we need a way to contain him... if things go wrong.

“Did you take the object from the crater?”

The bird-man froze.

Be honest, and risk imprisonment.

Or lie and face unknown consequences.

The way Grian had heard Xisuma talking, Xisuma was convinced that Grian had taken the mask. It also seemed as if he regarded the waffle-haired wonder as a threat. As an intruder.

Grian frowned. He wasn't hurting anyone.

Only a game!

Laughed his mind.

It's just a fun little game!

He wasn’t going to lie, he was just going to... distort the truth a bit. That’s all.

“How would I get that thing, Xisuma? You saw what happened to Keralis.”

Xisuma let out a breath he had been holding.

“Oh thank god.” he sighed, “I was worried that you were the one who... The one who hurt Mumbo. And Bdubs. That thing... it could be our world’s undoing.”

Iskall’s face was now pale.

“If it's that dangerous, then... who has it now?”

“I... I don’t know...” said Xisuma, his voice quivering slightly. He shook his head slightly and regained his composition.

“We need to find whoever has the mask before they can cause any more harm. I’m going to arrange another meeting, this time, everyone has to arrive. Iskall, nevermind about not telling-”
He cut himself off, flicking his eyes towards Grian for just an instant.

“Nevermind what I said earlier. Let’s go see if Mumbo’s awake yet.”

Both men nodded and followed Xisuma down the stony hallway.

~ ⬩ ⍑╎ᓭ ⬩ ~

Scar was seated on a stone bench and Mumbo lay on a bed, his usually neat hair dishevelled. He had several scratches and cuts all over his face and bandages wound their way around his midsection and arm. He breathed softly, his moustache fluttering slightly with each feeble breath.

The potions hadn't worked, and Scar was concerned.

I hope that these attacks won't continue.

He shifted on the cold stone steps, readjusting his position. Scar looked back over at his friend. His forehead was now beaded with sweat, and he had begun to shiver. Scar got up and pulled a blanket over the moustached man. The shaking stopped, and Mumbo resumed slumbering peacefully.

He hadn’t woken, and his fever hadn’t let up the past few days. Scar, along with any hermits that were online and able, had rushed over to Iskall’s tree. Mumbo had been in a much worse state then. His suit was torn and burned, and his moustache singed. His skin had been waxy, and he was covered in numerous cuts and bruises. His hearts were hardly affected by the wounds.

The same kind of injury as Keralis…

Keralis had only recently regained full use of his arm and, as Scar pondered the many injuries that had been inflicted on his friend. He frowned. Hopefully, Mumbo would recover from his ordeal. Iskall and Xisuma had found him alone, after following the trail he left from Grian’s base. However, after conducting a full search of the wreckage, they found no sign of the mischievous man himself.

Grian was still missing. It had been three days, and no one knew where he was.

Mumbo survived, but... what if Grian didn't...

For about the millionth time, Scar glanced at his communicator, looking for any sign that his jungle friend was okay.

No new messages…

Scar jumped as the door clicked open to his right. Iskall poked his head into the room, checking up on Mumbo. This time, something seemed different about him. Xisuma walked in, smiling.
Scar frowned.

Why were they smiling?

Then he spotted a very familiar red-shirted man, following the others into the room. Scar sprung out of his seat and gave Grian a tight hug. Grian gasped softly and Scar let go, realising that his buddy’s torso was wrapped in bandages.

“Sorry! Oh my goodness what happened to you and-”

Grian stepped into the room a bit more, and as he emerged from the shadows of the hallway, Scar’s eyes grew wide.

“Giran... you- you seem to have wings...”

Grian seemed amused with his reaction.

“Oh, I just bought them in the shopping district.” He joked merrily.

“Oh stop messing with me. But really, where did those come from?”

Grian’s smile faltered for a moment, revealing fear and... guilt? But in the blink of an eye, Grian’s smile was back.

“I don’t know, actually,” he chuckled, “They just kinda appeared one day.”

“Huh… odd.”

“But they’re really fun! It feels so much better than flying with an elytra.”

Scar reached out, “May I?”

Grian nodded and spread a wing for Scar to inspect.

He let out a breath of awe, his eyes widening.

The wings were glittering silver, purple, and white. Small black feathers poking out here and there. It looked like if you reversed a starry sky, black pinpricks of darkness speaking the bright canvas of feathers.

Scar got a face full of feathers as Grian suddenly stepped forward. He extricated himself from the feathery fluff and turned to see what had distracted him.

Grian was standing by Mumbo’s bed. The moustached man was not doing much better, and his breathing still came in short puffs. Grian reached down, grabbed Mumbo’s hand, and Scar noticed that his hands were shaking.

Xisuma grabbed Scar’s shoulder and spoke softly.

“The truth is, we found Grian with Mumbo.”

Star turned angrily and whispered back.

“Then why didn’t you tell me he was okay? I was worried! What if he-”

“Scar, Grian... he’s got more baggage than you would think. He... doesn’t remember it, but when he came here, he was... dangerous. I was afraid that...”

Scar’s eyes widened as he realised what Xisuma was suggesting.

“Grian would never! He’s our friend!”

Iskall quietly backed out of the room with a wary look on his face. He clearly wanted no part in this conversation.

“I know, I know,” Xisuma held up his hands, “I know that now, but there was still a chance, and we had to keep him contained, just in case. It's resolved now, we know he's not a threat.”

Scar sighed, giving up his anger. It would get him nowhere, “You still should have told me.”

Xisuma sighed, “You’re right.”

Scar turned back to look at Grian.

“So where'd you find him?”

Xisuma told the whole story. How they had followed the blast, how Grian’s base was collapsed and charred, and how they had found Grian, staggering through the jungle with Mumbo in his arms.
“...so I carried Mumbo, and Iskall carried Grian, and we walked all the way back here.”

Scar sat down, dumbfounded.

“So what now?”

“I’ve got this under control. In the meantime, you should help Iskall arrange a serverwide meeting. That means everyone. I think I know who’s behind this.”

“Who?”

Before Xisuma could answer him, Grian let out an exclamation of joy.

Mumbo was trying to sit up, coughing slightly.

“He’s awake!”

Chapter Text

It had been two weeks since the accident.

Stress stretched and glanced casually at her communicator.

She, Scar, and Iskall had worked together to rebuild and clean up Grian’s base while he and Mumbo had been recovering. Currently, Grian was back on his feet, but he mostly stayed to himself, shut up in his room and letting his injuries heal. Mumbo was in a bit worse state, but they were all helping him recover, and his broken leg was almost completely healed. Otherwise, things had almost gone back to normal.

The server had been oddly quiet, and the Hermits were uneasy with the newfound peace. Fortunately, the meeting was coming up. She was surprised that Xisuma had managed to arrange a meeting with everyone, seeing as they all had different schedules.

There was an hour left until it was time to meet in the shopping district. She had heard all of the hubbub concerning some mysterious stranger on the server, but recently the rumour was that it had almost killed Grian and Mumbo, and that there was more than one.

But those were just rumours.

They would find out the truth at the meeting.

A flower petal fell into her face.

I needa change those out. They’re startin’ to wilt...

She took a flying leap off the edge of a jungle tree, drifting down onto the jungle floor like a leaf. Landing softly, she began to pull the wilting flowers out of her dark hair, letting them fall to the ground around her.

Once she had finished, she bent down, smiling as she weaved new flowers into her hair. The fresh scent of the pink flora wafted around her, and the sun warmed her back nicely.

After a small stroll through the jungle, her communicator began to buzz incessantly. Hermits were coming online, and soon enough, everyone was.

ᐸXisumaVoidᐳ Alright guys, meeting’s starting soon!

Stress took one last deep breath of the humid jungle air and spread her elytra, soaring off into the bright blue sky.

It was time.

~ ⬩ ∴╎リ⊣ᓭ, ⬩ ~

Woah! So many people!

The shopping district was already milling with Hermits by the time Stress arrived. Only a few people were still missing.

As she flew in, Stress called out.

“Haaaaallo everyone! This is a huge meetin’!”

Various Hermits responded as she landed. Someone pointed out the fresh flowers in her hair.

“Yeah, I just collected myself some new flowers for the occasion!”

She spotted Keralis, waving to her from under a tree. She was glad to see that he was now using his injured hand freely. The two buildings that had been put up in the shopping district had been taken down when Xisuma had realised the bad intentions of their creator. Good thing too. Now they could once again gather here in peace.

A few of the missing Hermits swooped in, greeted by happy smiles. It had been too long since they had all been together. The crowd suddenly fell silent. Stress craned her neck, looking for the cause. Xisuma, followed by Grian and Impulse, was emerging from the portal. Grian turned back for a moment, helping Mumbo step through. Xisuma and Iskall waited for Grian by the steps of the town hall, letting him help Mumbo make his way over to a tree and sit down on a log.

After a few seconds, the three Hermits left Mumbo, and made their way up the steps to the town hall. A small platform just before the entrance of the magnificent brick building served as a stage, and the crowd quieted as Xisuma began to speak.

“Welcome, all of you. This is the first time I think we’ve all been together like this, huh?”

Soft laughter rippled through the crowd. After a moment, Xisuma continued.

“The first matter is a bit lighter, so we’ll begin with that. Grian, wanna take the lead?”

The red-cloaked waffle stepped forward, fidgeting with a stray string from his sweater.

“Uh.. hi everyone...”

Stress saw his eyes flick through the crowd. It was unlike Grian to be this anxious. He was never shy, not that she had seen. Grian’s gaze lingered for a moment, and Stress followed it. Mumbo was smiling at Grian, and gave him a thumbs up. Stress watched as Grian nodded slightly, and he seemed to harden his resolve, taking a deep breath.

“I think the best way to go about this is to just show you guys...”

Grian closed his eyes for a moment, and reached up for the clasp of his cloak.

Stress had wondered about his sudden change in style a while back, and now she knew the reason.

Murmurs and exclamations of surprise filled the air. Grian had let the cloak drop to the ground, revealing a pair of shining wings. Patches of black plumage blotted out ssilver and white feathers, making for an odd patchwork of light and dark.

Suddenly, there were a few fearful, even mildly angry voices in the pack of Hermits. Stress heard someone whisper nearby.

“Didn’t the thing from the tower have wings?”

Grian quickly folded his wings and tried to calm the increasingly agitated crowd.

Stress didn’t understand where all this anger was coming from. Yes, Grian had wings, but he wouldn’t hurt anyone... right? He wouldn’t have kept creating the structures in secret as the server began to worry.

Still, a nagging thought persisted.

No-one else on the server has bird wings...

“Guys I-”

Grian began to explain, but was quickly cut off.

“This isn’t funny, Grian!”

Again, the bird-man tried to speak.

“Wait- I-”

A portion of the crowd was still either confused or convinced it was a trick, but most of it was scared or annoyed.

“Don’t joke about things like this!”

“Yeah! This is serious!”

Grian seemed to be at his wit’s end with the others at this point, and in a burst of annoyance he yelled out, silencing the crowd.

“Just listen to me!”

The sudden silence that followed was absolute. The only sounds were the leaves rustling gently, and the waves lapping at the beach.

“Guys, I know this is bad timing, but... I genuinely don’t know how I got these.”

He laughed softly.

“But I'm not evil, and I'm not gonna kill you guys, so don’t worry. I just wanted to get that out there. I’ve been keeping my wings a secret for a while now, and I thought it was time to just tell you all. I’ve been going through a rough time and the stress of keeping this secret has really worn down on me.”

Still, a silence hung in the air, waiting to be broken. Stress had had enough. She was gonna accept Grian, like a true friend, and if they were truly his friends the other Hermits would follow. Stress sprinted to the stage and wrapped Grian in a tight hug, wings and all.

“Thanks for tellin’ us.”

Scar and Etho came up to the stage after her, and hugged Grian tight. As more and more Hermits came up, the silence melted away. Grian began to half-laugh, half-cry. With a little help, Mumbo also made his way over, giving his feathered friend a soft hug.

“I knew you could do it.”

After a few minutes, everyone had settled back down. Grian had tucked his cloak into his inventory, and he seemed to be giddy at the fact that he could move his wings freely.
Xisuma began to speak.

“On a darker note, I’m sure that most of you have heard what happened at Grian’s base.”

Most of the Hermits nodded. The few who didn't were quickly informed by their neighbours.

“Well, it turns out that the being who Mumbo and Grian encountered was different from the one in the tower. It was also much stronger.”

Xisuma paused, taking a deep breath.

“To keep safe, I ask anyone who sees a tall figure with feathers, wings, and wearing some shade of purple or black garment to immediately type your coordinates into chat. Do not attempt to fight these things. Trust me, they can and will kill you. Permanently. However, I have set up some safety precautions. We will arrange several support teams who are online at approximately the same time. If a member of your group sees coordinates in chat, you will immediately go to the coordinates specified to assist and attempt to detain the creature. Together, we could manage to delay one of them and save a life. You will all need protection, though, and I have just the thing.”

Xisuma produced 24 shulkers or various colours from his inventory, and placed them into a chest.

“You each get one. Go ahead, find yours.”

Stress pushed forwards with the other Hermits, reaching into the chest. Her fingers fumbled around as she inspected box after box. Finally, she found a magenta one with a small label on it, reading her name.

Curious, she stepped back from the swarm of bodies and opened the box. Her eyes widened as she looked over the contents. A set of dark brownish-purple armour lay in the box, glowing with enchanted light. It must have taken ages for Xisuma to get enough exp. There was also the question of what the armour was made of. It was tough and metallic, but also slightly flexible. She had never seen anything like it. There was also an enchanted diamond axe and diamond sword, along with an ingot of the same material as the armour.

Once the chest was empty except for one box, Xisuma picked it up.

“What you have now is the strongest armour in the game. Stronger even than diamond.”

A couple of disbelieving scoffs and chuckles floated through the air.

“This is called Netherite. So that I would not alert the creatures of this change, I updated secretly. I’m sure none of you have been to the nether in a while, but it has been completely reset. Now, it has forests and pig people and new structures and... and I'm getting carried away...”

Most of the Hermits looked surprised that the Nether had changed, but Grian, Mumbo, and Iskall seemed to already know this.

Right. They came here through the nether.

Xisuma chuckled, rubbing his arms.

“You can use this,”

He placed down an odd, dark grey, table.

“You can make yourself either a netherite axe, or a netherite sword. Take your pick. The process is permanent, so be careful. Use the ingot.”

This time, the Hermits got into the best line that they could, and waited their turn. When it got to her turn, Stress placed the sword down onto the table, and it seemed to click into place. She took the ingot, and tried to drop it onto the sword, with no result. Puzzled, she tried to switch out the sword with the ingot, but the ingot wouldn’t click in.

Xisuma, who noticed her struggles, showed her that there was a second, smaller slot, made for the netherite.

“Oh! Thanks, Xisuma. I was havin’ trouble findin’ that.”

As soon as she pushed the ingot in, darkness flowed over the bright diamond gear, and a few strips of leather wound around the handle, giving it an easier grip. Once there seemed to be no more blue, she picked up the weapon. It was a bit heavier than diamond, but that was okay.

She moved out of the way, letting the next Hermit forwards.

Once everyone had changed their weapon of choice, Xisuma finished up.

“None of you should hold your weapon...”

Several Hermits hastily stashed their blades into their inventories.

“...or wear your armour unless someone is in life-threatening danger. We cannot let the Wa-”

Xisuma cut himself off. Stress was curious.

What was he gonna say?

Xisuma cleared his throat and continued.

“We cannot let these strangers know that we have these materials. We cannot let them prepare. The strongest weapon we can have against them is the element of surprise.”

Xisuma seemed genuinely frightened, his speech was fast and his hands were clenched.

“Thank you all for being here, and... stay safe, okay?”

The crowd began to dissipate, and the Hermits previously on the stairs came down to join the others.

After a few minutes of conversation, small droplets of rain began to fall.

I’d best be gettin’ home.

Wouldn't wanna get caught in a storm.

Chapter Text

Hey guys.

I know that this work is kinda based in Hermitcraft and Evo fandoms, but I wanted to put out something anyway.

As you may or may not know, Technoblade recently passed away due to cancer.

I can't say that I was a big fan, but whenever I got bored, he was one of the creators I could always rely on to make me laugh.
His witty humor and bright outlook always brightened my day and cheered me up when I was upset.
I'm glad that he was happy and surrounded by loved ones in his final hours.

His legacy will continue to live on in all of our hearts, and we will all miss him dearly.

Rest well king.

Chapter Text

The meeting had ended, but Ren stuck around. He craned his neck forward to see the wings better. Ren joined the bunch that had already formed around the mischievous Hermit. A gigantic grin was plastered across his face. With a jolt, Ren realised Grian was taller than Zedaph, who was currently chatting with the bird man about the science of his flight.

Weird. I could have sworn that Zed was taller…

“Can you carry someone?" Asked Zed, ever the scientist.

"No, I tried to carry Mumbo once. It... it did not end well," Grian laughed and spread his wings.

At the insistence of the crowd, Grian agreed to show them his flying.

Ren craned his neck forward to see the wings better.

“Ready?”

A few people nodded, and the rest gave a cheer. Ren yelled along with them, excited to see the glittering plumage in action.

With a gust of wind, Grian rocketed into the cloudy sky, a few feathers drifting to the ground in his wake.

Small raindrops began to patter across the Hermit's faces as they watched Grian’s flying. His movements were graceful, and Ren could hear him laughing merrily as he did little loops in the sky. At the end of his third loop, he turned downwards and began to dive, coming in fast.

The rain grew heavier, fat droplets of water splattering against the cobbled roads beneath their feet.

The crowd scattered, dodging away from the spot where Grian would surely crash.

Just before he hit the ground, Grian’s wings snapped open, sending a strong wave of wind around him and knocking leaves and small branches from the trees. Ren’s hair flapped wildly in the breeze, whipping around as if alive. With only a moment’s pause, Grian was back in the sky, weaving through the clouds.

The clouds were dark now, and the rain was steadily streaming down. Most of the Hermits had gone back to their bases now or logged off. Only a few remained, watching Grian dance in the darkening sky.

Xisuma noticed that the clouds seemed to be developing into a thunderstorm, and tried to call out. This weather was too dangerous for elytra users, you were likely to have trouble seeing and crash.

“Grian, come down! It’s gonna be a big storm!”

Grian swooped down for an instant to respond.

“But this is amazing! I never knew how nice it was to fly in this kind of weather!”

Miraculously, Grian’s wings seemed to be perfectly dry, and before Xisuma could protest, he was back in the air. Now, it was just Scar, Etho, Xisuma, False, and himself, standing in the rain.

The faint sound of thunder crackled in the distance.

Scar, his worried face squinting into the sky, called out.

“Come down! There’s lightning!”

But Grian just laughed.

The wind eased up slightly, but the clouds were at their darkest, and small sparks of electricity were flickering inside of them.

They faintly heard Grian call down to them.

“See? The storm’s not too bad! I told you it was fi-”

Ren felt the electricity crackle through the air.

He saw the flash of light in the sky

The thunder cracked in his ears.

The rain poured down in waves.

And a small figure fell out of the sky, plummeting towards the ground.

~ ⬩ ⍑╎ᓭ ⬩ ~

Etho raced forward, following the others.

Grian was falling, down out of the dark grey sky. Electricity still crackled around his body and across his wings.

Xisuma, easily the tallest, got there first. Xisuma was knocked down by the force of Grian crashing into his arms. Rushing forwards, Etho helped Xisuma up. Surprisingly, Grian seemed to be fine. He had no burns, and the crackling had stopped. He was breathing heavily, but he wasn't unconscious, simply dazed.

He stumbled a bit as he stood, and Etho helped support him. Xisuma got up, his face etched with worry.

“Are you alright?”

There was a moment's pause, and then a smile spread across Grian’s face. He started to laugh, and responded to his friends' worried queries.

“I’m fine! That was quite fun, actually.”

Etho looked him up and down. A lightning strike that directly should have killed Grian, but he seemed to be just fine.

In just a few moments, Grian was back on his feet, apologising for having landed on Xisuma.

He shook out his wings, and laughed. Small sparks still flickered between the feathers, glowing slightly purple.

Xisuma’s brow furrowed.

“Grian... we should try to figure out how you got those. Maybe Zed could help run some experiments, we could figure out the orig-”

“No.”

Grian interjected, his smile fading away.

“But if we could just-”

“NO.”

Grian insisted, his face pale.

“No... No experiments. I’m not an experiment.”

Xisuma sighed.

“We need to get to the bottom of this, and even if you aren't involved with these strange new creatures, I think your wings are.”

“We can just catch one of these ‘creatures.’ You can ask them anything you need to know.”

Xisuma nodded, “I’m gonna see if I can set up some kind of trap.”

The other Hermits agreed, wished each other well, and soared away. The sky was clearer now, and it was safer to fly. One after the other, the people around Etho took off, rocketing over the rippling ocean waves. Etho equipped an elytra himself, tightening the thick leather straps around his shoulders and waist. Once all the buckles were secure, he too took off, up and into the deep blue sky.

~ ⬩ !¡ᔑℸ ̣⍑∴ᔑ|| ⬩ ~

“So what exactly are they, Xisuma?”

Tango watched as Xisuma began to place down iron blocks, their shining surfaces hard and cold.

“Well, it's very complicated...”

“Then simplify it.”

Xisuma sighed, finishing up the metal floor and beginning on the ceiling. A clang echoed around the small cavern as a piece of metal fell to the ground.

“They used to be kind.”

Tango took a quick look at the blueprints for their creation, and began to put up iron bars.

Xisuma continued talking.

“Have you heard of the myth of the ‘Watchers’?”

Tango nodded, "A bit. Why do you mention it?"

"Well... I think they've finally found this server."

"Wh- What? But I thought they were trapped? Why now? Why here?"

"Because they're after something - or rather - someone."

"Who?"

The Hermits worked in awkward silence for a moment. Tango pushed the last bar into place, and watched as Xisuma bolted chains to the floor and ceiling, the heavy metal links clinking together.

Both men exited the now finished cage, leaving a small hole in the entrance. A chest to their left held the bars needed to close the prison. As the final step, Tango began placing lava and assembling a gateway through the molten rock.

Finally, it was done. Hidden in the recesses of a ravine, a foreboding metal cage sat. Magma slowly oozed over its sides and back. Through the entrance, sinister chains cast shadows across the dimly lit floor.

“So all this is what it takes to contain one of these watchers?”

“Yes, but I dislike that name for them. Calling them Watchers is saying that they do nothing but watch. They do much more than that, much worse things.”

“But if they’ve never been here, how do you know that they do bad things? Maybe what you think of them is wrong.”

“I... I heard it from a friend.”

Again, the silence was deafening. Tango wanted to ask who, but he doubted Xisuma would tell him. There was obviously something more going on here.

Xisuma knows more than he's letting on...

Before Tango could ask any more questions, Xisuma began to stride away.

“Thanks for the help, Tango. Our work is done here.”

As the strider man took off, Tango looked back at the cage. He reached out a hand, and grabbed one of the bars, looking into the soon-to-be prison. He stared into his own reflection on the worn iron floor. His own blood red eyes peered back at him, etched with worry.

“Watchers...”

He whispered to himself.

From the way Xisuma had described them...

I hope this will be enough...

Chapter Text

As Ren alighted on the ground, the sun warmed his back, and the tall grass around him rustled softly. He unlatched his elytra and tucked it away into his inventory, the shiny silver webs flowing through his hands like a liquid.

In the distance, a small group of wild horses roamed the plains, tossing their manes and stomping their hooves. Their dark coats gleamed in the sun, pitch black and silky.

Ren found a nice shaded spot at the edge of a forest, and lay down on the soft green grass. This part of the world was untouched, no bases or shops as far as the eye could see. Only waving hills of grass, trees gently rustling, a mountain range far in the distance, towering over the world.

The ground was pleasantly cool and, as he lay there with his eyes closed, Ren sighed happily.

After a few moments, he opened his eyes again and gazed into the sky.

Clouds lazily drifted across it.

That one... looks like a pumpkin. And those ones...

A bow...

A piston...

A squid...

And that last one, the darker one, resting upon the horizon...

A bird...

Ren sighed. He had needed this little break. The events on the server had been getting quite frightening, frankly.

He rubbed his arm and scratched behind one of his ears. His elbow popped as he pushed himself upright, and he winced a little. After stretching, he reached down and pulled out his communicator, but the screen was blank.

These creatures... these strangers...

I didn't think that they were real…

He thought back, remembering an old legend he had once been told.

Long ago, there were few worlds, and those that existed were small.

People lived alone, in realities only limited by their imagination.

But as more and more people began to generate more and more worlds, a creature began to form alongside them. It was said that they started as glimmers of light, simply wisps that floated on the wind.

Some player, no-one knows quite who, found a way to connect worlds to multiple people. You could now open little gaps, let others visit your magnificent world.
Players revelled in this newfound connection, rejoicing together.

However, this new system was flawed. When the original player of a world went offline, all of the others would be forced to do the same, pushed back into their own realities.
Eventually, people found a solution. One of the most well known entrepreneurs of the time was a man named Riot. He and his right hand man, Rune, founded a new type of world, and became some of the first admins ever to exist. They maintained the world, kept it alive. Riot and Rune unknowingly started a revolution. More and more players ascended to the role of admin and manufactured their own worlds, worlds that others could access as they pleased.

But when ever more players joined in, these admins did not have the power to maintain servers on their own, and it was beginning to take a toll. So, as a solution, they began to utilise the wisps, the strange creatures that guard over their worlds.

These wisps were happy to be needed and helped willingly, but only barely provided enough energy to keep the servers alive.

Eventually, the admins began to grow stronger, their worlds growing more complex, and more and more people continued to join these worlds.

Soon, the wisps began to learn and grow, watching the admins of separate servers use their power. They became strong, growing just as the admins did.

They experimented, evolved, and learned how to mimic the admin’s power. For a while, these wisps lived in harmony with the admins, watching, occasionally sending their beautiful lights into the sky, glimmers of blue and green.

However, the admins eventually outgrew the crutch of the wisps, and cast them away, powerful enough now to maintain a server themselves.

Alone and rejected, the wisps began to develop the skills they had learned into a stronger power. They no longer thrived off of happiness. Now, their black and purple energy came from fear and hate.

They saw themselves as gods, and treated players and admins as lesser beings. They now matched the admins in dark power, and disobeyed the admins’ requests for them to leave.

Eventually, the admins came together. This had to stop. There was a war, where the admins pitted their strength against that of these so-called “Watchers.”

For a long time, the admins were on the defence, trying desperately to repair the glitches and codebreaks that the Watchers instigated.

But not long after, the tides turned. Now the admins were fighting back, sometimes permanently obliterating Watchers. After heavy losses, the Watchers retreated, and the admins could rest easy.

Here’s where the tales differ. Some say that the creatures simply retreated to bide their time, waiting in a world of their own making. Others say that they wanted to steal the admin’s powers, and so went looking for a weak admin to manipulate. Some even had the theory that the Watchers found a new home, one where the admin needed them.

Whatever happened next, The Watchers were never seen again. Just in case, many servers put up shields and defences, in case they ever returned to do further harm. Many believed that they died out, faded away as they were not needed. He was sure every Hermit had heard the story.

And that was all it was.

A story.

Until now.

Now, the Watchers were here.

Now, that old legend, that misty myth...

...was reality.

~ ⬩ リᒷ⍊ᒷ∷ ⬩ ~

Soft murmurs of speech emanated from Grian’s newly repaired mansion. Wels quickly darted behind a nearby pillar. He thought everyone had left the construction site already. He took a quick glance at his communicator. Only he, Bdubs, and TFC were online, and as he approached, he began to make out the voices. This was not the voice of either of his friends. That meant...

It must be one of those creatures!

Now, he could begin to hear the words.

“Yes. Yes, I will arrive shortly.”

He shuddered. The voice was monotone and robotic. He peeked around the pillar, and saw the feathered creature, at least three metres tall, standing on the shining new floorboards. He held his breath. This was the first time anyone had gotten a good look at these things. It was covered in black feathers, iridescent and shiny. A tilted purple halo circled its head, strange symbols hovering here and there. It's tail slithered over the ground as it spoke, twitching this way and that. Sharp talons left scratches in the wood beneath them.

“No. No, I was simply monitoring the player’s progress on repairs”

There was a pause. Wels was confused now.

There's no one else here. Who is he talking to?

“Alright.”

The creature seemed to shake itself, spreading out its wings. Crackling electricity suddenly appeared, lacing across its wings and between its fingers. It reached out a taloned hand and made an odd motion, etching a symbol into the air.

A small gust of wind hit him in the face, and when he opened his eyes, a crackling purple portal stood before the creature. It slipped through nimbly, and the portal quickly began to close.

For a moment, a fierce battle raged in Wels' head.

Follow it! This could be my best chance!

But it could be dangerous! What if I’m killed?

I could find out their secrets, then we might be able to beat them!

I... the portal is closing. Just... be careful, and stay hidden.

As the portal was about to close, Wels took a leap. He slipped through just in time, and smacked into dusty yellow stone. He darted behind a nearby structure, black spires and yellow bricks.

He could see the creature some ways ahead, walking up a path. Smaller creatures flew about, only slightly taller than two metres, carrying out various tasks.

It stopped at a set of doors, knocked twice, and then pushed them open.

He had to get a closer look.

He inched forwards, being careful to avoid the many prying eyes.

Finally, he reached a window of the structure, and peered in.

Two creatures were standing in a magnificent pavilion, covered in pale yellow and grey stone. Purple mist hung in the air, giving everything an eerie hue. Another creature was looking down at the one he had been following expectantly. This one had two halos, and Wels shuddered. It felt as if he were being watched. Its mask seemed to have cracks in it. It towered over the other, nearly 4 metres in height.

The smaller creature remained silent.

“You acted rashly. We do not want to alienate our dear Xelqua. Remember, player’s minds work much differently than ours.”

The smaller creature nodded, and spoke softly.

“Apologies, sibling Void.”

The larger creature sighed.

“You are to remain here until I permit you to visit the world again. I shall send sibling Dust in your stead.”

“As you decree.”

The smaller creature bobbed their head in respect, and turned to leave.

Wels quickly slipped around the side, and could see the creature emerge from the doorway. As soon as the doors had closed behind them, the creature let out a screech of dismay and sent a bolt of lightning into the dark, starless sky. Its voice was now laced with emotion.

“How dare sibling Void give my job to sibling Dust? Has he forgotten that it is I who saved them, separating the experiment from its connections?”

It hissed, and flapped its wings, soaring towards a dark pillar of obsidian. They reached out their talons to perch, clamping onto the tough black stone and looking down at this place.

Wels raced after it. He tried to be careful, but the hairs on his neck still stood up. He was sure someone could see him.

Finally, Wels reached the pillar. They were a ways above, but he could still see pretty well. He tried to climb it, but the smooth black material proved to be too slick.

The creature ran a talon through its feathers, smoothing down some of the puffed-up plumage. Another creature landed beside him, this one looking relatively similar. It had a slightly different outfit, however, and it also had a more slender build.

“What troubles you, sibling Wind?” it asked softly. This voice was monotone, but softer somehow.

“I worry, sibling Crystal, that sibling Void’s - ah - injury may be affecting their judgement. My role in retrieving our experiment has been given to sibling Wind.”

Hints of emotion still crept into the creature’s voice, but it seemed to be fading rapidly.

“Oh little one, do not fret. Sibling Void is sound of mind. You are simply the youngest, and we were aware that there would be small emotional errors. We shall purge you of them eventually. In the meantime, attempt to suppress them. Emotions get in the way of rational thought.”

The newest creature shook out their feathers.

The other sighed, and its voice lost all emotion.

“Thank you, Sibling Crystal.”

The newer creature nodded.

There they stayed, perched together upon the tall obsidian tower.

“What do you think will become of our little experiment?” the creature said, gazing at the darkness around them.

“I am unsure, Sibling Dust, I am unsure.”

Wels began to sneak away. He had gotten enough information for now, he needed to find a way home. Suddenly, a creature landed in front of him. It was the tall one from the pavilion. A glowing eye above its head stared directly at him, and it grinned.

He backed away, but bumped into a pillar. Stumbling, he almost fell. They had found him.

“Oh, it seems we have a little guest.”

It chuckled. Wels tried to move, but his body wouldn't listen. Fear petrified him, holding him in place.

Lightning began to flicker around the creature’s fingertips, so dark it was almost black.

So I guess this was not the best idea.

“Hmm, you have heard much of that conversation,” It seemed to be trying to be friendly, smiling at him.

“This is interesting. Very interesting indeed. How about… we strike a deal, little player?

Wels gulped. Maybe he could get out. Maybe he could escape this dire predicament.

“I will release you, and the deal is quite easy. I simply wish for a good show. Whatever needs to be done to make that happen, so be it. But if you do not manage to entertain me…”

The Watcher bent down so its face was right in front of his. It tenderly touched the side of his face with one long talon, and it's face was no longer smiling.

“I promise to you, you shall regret it.”

With that, it pushed him backwards, through a portal that Wels hadn't even realised that had been opened. He landed on his back, breathing heavily. His body felt like fire, his muscles so tense that he couldn't move.

He lay there for a moment, then took a deep breath. Just forget. Forget and move on, and act like nothing happened.

A good show? What does that even mean?

He got up, and began to make his way back home. Still, he couldn't get the words out of his head. Something more was going on here.

What do you think will become of our little experiment?

I am unsure, sibling Dust, I am unsure.

Chapter Text

Hey guys. I've been mostly offline for a few days with the exception of posting the chapter, and I just wanted to say a few words about another death of a beloved content creator.

TFC was the oldest active hermit on hermitcraft and a valued member, as well as a great entertainer.

Though many may not know him well, he still had a loving and wonderful community around him, and despite all sorts of struggles, he carried on.

Goodbye, TinfoilChef, and may you rest in peace.

Chapter Text

Grian alighted on the hot clay of the mesa and skidded into his secret base. His fingers eagerly fumbled with a chest latch. Inside, the mask sat. Grian snatched it up and eagerly pressed it to his face. The now familiar feeling of his body morphing spread across his body, making his arms tingle. He now had to crouch in the cave he was in, and his talons left small scratches on the wooden floor.

He spread out his wings. A bit more than half of his feathers were now dark. Even the longer flight feathers had begun to change. Small glowing purple lines had begun to appear on each black feather, and Grian wasn't quite sure what they were.

He changed into his fitting clothes, struggling out of his tight red jumper and short grey pants and into a dark and silvery garb. As a final touch, he fastened a deep bluish-black piece of cloth over the messy holes in his shirt. It perfectly concealed the wing holes without impeding his movement, and he liked the way it looked.

It flowed behind him like a mysterious cape, and small threads he hadn't noticed before twinkled like stars. His deep purple shirt complimented it nicely.

He emerged from the cave into bright sunlight. With the Hermits now wary of the strangers, he would have to be a lot more careful. He needed backup, some kind of insurance to make sure he wouldn't be caught.

He thought back to the day he had fought one of the creatures.

If I used lightning back then... maybe I still can!

Grian enthusiastically shoved his hand out, and closed his eyes, willing lightning into existence. Nothing. He tried some more. He tried it while flying. He tried lying down. He tried pointing his finger. Nothing seemed to work. Finally he began to give up.

Maybe it's my mindset. I just need to believe I can do it...

He reached out, but there was still nothing. He took off. Maybe it was something about where he was, in his base.

Upon arriving, however, there was still no sign of the electric powers. Grian sat down in his base and closed his eyes, reimagining what had happened that day.

How did I do it?

Then it hit him.

Fear.

Mumbo was afraid.

And that’s when I was able to use the power.

Grian laughed aloud. It was risky, especially if he was wrong, but he had a plan.

~ ⬩ ∴ᔑ⍊ᒷ∷ᓭ, ⬩ ~

Doc and Bdubs were quietly finishing up a build, placing block after block of quartz.

“Almost done!” Bdubs said, smiling.

Doc nodded, engrossed in his work.

Bdubs laughed at his buddy’s single-minded attention, grasping a new batch of quartz blocks.

They had been working for hours, and the statue was beginning to take shape.

Bdubs stood, and inspected the snout of the giant goat.

“I think it needs a bit more width there, it looks a bit odd.”

Doc took a look.. His friend was right, the snout could use a bit more stone on top.

“I’ll go grab some”

He headed over to their shulker pile and began to search through them. Finally, he found the only stone shulker left, filled with huge chunks of grey slate. He scrabbled back over to Bdubs, and placed the shulker down.

“There we are. There's only a stack and a bit left, but it will probably be enough."

Bdubs didn't respond.

“Bdubs?” Doc said questioningly, “Are you okay, buddy?”

The wide-eyed Hermit was staring at something behind him, his mouth agape and his face going pale. He took a step back.

“There’s- it's-”

Doc was puzzled. He had never seen the cheery Hermit so petrified. He turned around, and immediately spotted what was giving Bdubs such a fright. In broad daylight, perched precariously on one of the tall bamboo poles, was a bird person. The goat man smiled and raised a hand in greeting.

“Don’t worry Bdubs, it's just-”

But as the person took off and began to approach them, Doc’s smile faded. The feathers were too dark, the cloak too long, the wings too big. This was most definitely not their mischievous friend.

A mask covered the upper half of the creature’s face, but the faint glowing outline of an eye hung above its head, following his every movement. It landed right in front of him. The gust of wind almost blew him off of his feet. Bdubs made an odd strangled sound and fled, spamming rockets as he shot across the sky. The creature smiled and took a deep breath. Small flickers of lightning were beginning to weave through its feathers.

Doc began to type into his communicator secretly. The creature seemed distracted, inspecting the electricity that flickered around its fingertips.

Doc pressed enter, and sent out a rushed message.

creature here 1130 83 -935 hurry

The creature turned for a moment, reaching into its robes.

Its head suddenly whipped in his direction, and the glowing eye narrowed at him. He shivered as the stranger shook itself, standing to its full height. Doc towered over all the other Hermits, the tallest one on the server. The creature before him, however, was taller still. Its wings cast shadows across the bright quartz and small purple lines gave off a sinister glow.

After a moment of stillness, it reached out a hand. Doc tried to back up, shaking with fear. He should run. He couldn't fight. He couldn’t move. It was like an aura of fear, holding him down, keeping him trapped.

The creature smiled and gave a small laugh, but it didn't feel particularly evil, it seemed to simply be enjoying itself. It backed up slightly and without warning, it slammed its clawed palm against the statue that Doc had been working so hard on. Crackles of light purple electricity arced across the stone, setting his hairs on end. The creature whispered something unintelligible, and stared at the now charred rock. It looked back at him, and to his surprise, guilt flashed across its face. At this little flicker, Doc found his fear was no longer so great.

Taking advantage of this small weakness, he lunged, pulling his netherite sword from his inventory and slashing through the air. The creature seemed startled, and leaped baack, but not fast enough to avoid a small scrape on its arm. It winced, swiped at him with its sharp talons, but it seemed half-hearted.

Out of the corner of his eye, Doc clocked two Hermits approaching fast. The creature seemed to notice this too, and immediately tried to take off. Doc sighed with relief. Help was here. As he tried to regain his senses, it flapped its wings, sending billows of air flowing across the sculpture. Charred stone crumbled under its talons, sending little pebbles falling down towards the ocean waves. Doc swiped again with the sword, but the creature whipped around and caught the blade between its palms. Doc Immediately let go, and not a moment too soon. Flickers of lightning laced down the blade, lightning that would have gotten him had he not let go.

It kicked him to the ground, knocking the wind out of him, and began to take off. With one more flap, the creature was off the ground.

The Hermits who were now diving in towards them, False and Tango, saw its move to escape and began to angle towards it, hoping to cut it off.

As they approached it, Doc watched in horror as first one, then two Hermits fell towards the ocean, struck by small bolts of the light lavender lightning. They had forgotten to change out their armour. The creature flew between them, soaring away at breakneck speeds.

As the dark figure disappeared over the horizon, Doc frantically strapped on an elytra, diving down towards the icy ocean waves. He had to catch them.

~ ⬩ ᔑ ⬩ ~

Yesss!

It worked!

Doc was one of the hardest to scare Hermits that Grian knew, and yet somehow, He had been petrified.

Still, Grian felt guilty. He didn’t want to cause any more ruckus. He sat down, thoughts rolling through his head.

What if I struck them with too much lightning? What if they drowned? What if-

Giran sat up, frozen.

A little voice in the back of his head had begun to whisper, a voice that was decidedly NOT his.

What is the harm in a little lightning? You are simply learning.

He shook his head. He was going crazy. That must be what it was.

You are not insane, my dear Xelqua. I am the one who rescued you.

He started. Rescued him? From what?

From your old world. But alas, you do not remember. Possibly, it is for the better. See you soon, little watcher.

The presence left as quickly as it had came, his mind returning to his own.

Wait! I have more questions!

But the voice was gone.

He dove a bit lower, watching his rippling reflection in the rough ocean waves.

Pushing himself faster, he flapped a few times, soaring through the cool ocean wind.

He hoped that those he had struck down were okay. He hadn’t meant to hit them with the lightning, not really. He just wanted to scare them a little. Get them off his back.
Instead, the poor Hermits had been struck, plummeting towards the ocean.

His communicator vibrated softly in his pocket. He took a peek at the screen, and sighed in relief.

ᐸDocm77ᐳ creature here 1130, 83, -935 hurry
ᐸFalseSymmetryᐳ Tango and I are on our way.
ᐸXisumaᐳ Is everyone okay? What happened?
ᐸDocm77ᐳ It just left. t had lightning or something
ᐸDocm77ᐳ False and Tango were both hit.
ᐸDocm77ᐳ I think they're okay, just knocked out. Going to check now.
ᐸRenTheDogᐳ Phew. sorry i couldn't come help, I was too far away at the moment.
ᐸDocm77ᐳ False is okay, but Tango has some nasty burns.
ᐸXisumaᐳ do you need help?
ᐸDocm77ᐳ Nah, he's awake now, just in a lot of pain. he’ll be ok.

Chapter Text

She was out. She was done.

Stress was flying away, far away from spawn and the shopping district. Away from the strange figures and deadly lightning. Two other hermis trailed behind her, Keralis and Hypno. Keralis, having been struck by the lightning, agreed with Stress. They were worried for their friends, yes.

But I’m... afraid...

It was foolish to stay in the main parts of hermitcraft now that so much was happening. They were going to found a new village, far away from the chaos and conflict, and forge a new, better life.

As the three Hermits sailed silently over the ocean, Stress shook the wilting pink flowers from her hair, letting the delicate petals float down to the surface of the ocean. They were quickly swallowed by the waves, sinking farther and farther away.

It was time to move on.

~ ⬩ ⎓╎リᔑꖎ ⬩ ~

False looked at her new favourite feather. It was a deep black shade this time, and she swore that occasionally she would see it flicker slightly with remnants of lightning.

She had gotten it just a few days ago, when one of the creatures had approached Doc and Bdubs. She had come in for “backup” but had never planned to harm it.

That would only have made them angry.

She had been struck with less energy than her friend, who had taken much longer to recover. Zed was still weak, but at least he was back on his feet. The only remnant she had was a slight ache in her limbs and a mild headache.

It knew. I know it knew. It could tell I wasn't trying to hurt it.

False added the black feather to her collection. All of the others were an iridescent lavender shade. She loved how they shimmered, almost as if each one contained a tiny storm. The lightning was known to be dangerous though. To most Hermits, these bird creatures were seen as a danger.

But not all legends are true, and these so-called “Watchers” couldn’t be too bad, right?

Besides, if they were really so dangerous, then why has no-one died yet?

She winced, remembering Bdubs, but shrugged it off.

It was his fault for hitting the golem. He was trying to hurt one of them. Of course it would defend itself!

If she could just get the other Hermits to realise, then maybe... maybe she could save the server, and finally meet one of these magnificent visitors face to face!

False grinned, and gleefully hopped into the air, gliding away to go see her friends.

~ ⬩ ↸ᒷᓭℸ ̣╎リᔑℸ ̣╎𝙹リ, ⬩ ~

“So you want me to get ya cobble?”

TFC was gathering up some torches, readying himself to go back down into the mines. A group of Hermits, each with a small feather pinned to their collars, were standing around him.

“Yeah! Our base of operations will be mostly stone and stone bricks, and I've heard your mining skills are quite admirable. You must have built up quite a lot of it while mining. You could become one of our loyal members and help us in our cause!”

Behind False, each of the Hermits had a different expression. Cub seemed to be exasperated with False’s enthusiastic praise of the watchers, but was inspecting a feather carefully. Maybe he was here for science.

Iskall and Beef were standing next to each other, nodding. Iskall looked a bit more unsure, fidgeting with the edge of his lime-green shirt.
TFC slid the last parcel of torches into his inventory.

“And what do I get?”

False’s face fell a bit.

“We could... you will have our protection! As a member of our little group here, we’ll teach you how to stay on the good side of the Watchers!”

He didn't know about this deal. It seemed a bit sketchy.

He reached for his trusty diamond pickaxe. He was happy to just stay down in his mines. Rather not get involved in whatever was happening. “I think I’m gonna pass on that one...”

False grabbed his wrist before he could take a hold of the tool.

“Please. We need that stone, it would take weeks to mine it on our own. And we’re going to get it one way or another...”

False drew a netherite sword out of her inventory.

“So what do you say? Join our group?”

I already have quite a lot of stone anyway. What else am I gonna do with it? Besides... False doesn't seem like she’s kidding. Best to just go along.

He sighed. “Alright, I’m in.”

He hefted his pickaxe onto his shoulder with one hand and reached out the other. False shook it eagerly, slipping her weapon back into its slot.

She reached up, and TFC leaned down so she could pin a small feather to his black T-shirt.

“Welcome to...

...the Watched!”

~ ⬩ ᓭᒷℸ ̣ ⬩ ~

A foreboding metal cage covered in glowing hot magma was hidden in this cave. He peered between the bars, and recoiled. Chains sat on the floor, casting blurry shadows in the dim light of the lava.

Why is this here? I probably shouldn't have ignored that no entry sign...

As if in answer to his question, soft chattering began to grow louder, approaching him. Jevin quickly darted around a bend and hid in a craggy recess of the rock, listening.

Tango’s voice came into focus first.

“... mainly iron and magma, to weaken them in case we need to ki-”

Xisuma spoke next, his voice clear and echoing.

“No killing, remember? We need them.”

Jevin shivered. Tango obviously wanted someone or something dead.

“Believe me, it's hard to kill a watcher, even in its weakened state.”

Ah

So that was it.

This cage was made for a watcher.

The footsteps stopped abruptly.

“Wait...”

Jevin was breathing heavily. They were right next to his hiding spot. He heard the footsteps resume, boots crunching on the rough ground, approaching the place where he hid.

Just as Jevin was sure he would be found out, he heard rockets, and Xisuma called out to a third person in greeting.

He sighed in relief.

As Tango’s steps receded down the cave, Jevin quietly slipped out the other end of the cave and flew off.

Tensions were high on the server right now, and he would rather stay out of this whole mess.

~ ⬩ ╎リℸ ̣𝙹 ⬩ ~

Etho already knew of the watchers. Xisuma had mentioned them once before, towards the beginning of season six. Now, it seemed they had become a problem.

It would be much more simple if we just eliminated the threat.

He strode up to Xisuma. Tango approached him too, greeting him and ushering him into the cave. His arms and legs still bore bandages, the burns from a few days ago still not fully healed. Tango acted fine, however, and refused to rest.

“Thanks for coming on such short notice.”

Xisuma led him into the cave, where the cage was already set.

“No problem.”

Xisuam began to explain their plans to capture one the Watchers and interrogate it, ask why it was here.

After the strider man had finished, Etho posed his question.

“If we can destroy them, then why shouldn't we? If there's a way, killing these creatures would be the better choice.”

Xisuma seemed to pause for a moment, thinking.

“Well, we want to know why they are here...”

“The server’s safety comes first, Xisuma. As admin, you know that better than any of us. So can they be killed or not?”

Xisuma sighed. After a long silence, he answered.

“No. They cannot be destroyed.”

Etho nodded, and joined Tango, who was already working on the cage’s redstone.
As he approached, he noticed a confused look on Tango's face, but it quickly faded a
way.

Etho shrugged.

The best they could do was imprison them.

Right?

~ ⬩ ℸ ̣⍑ᒷ ⬩ ~

Tango was scared.

This measly cage couldnt be enough.

Not from what he had heard.

And why did Xisuma lie to Etho?

He could tell when the strider man was lying. Those evil beings could be killed, he was sure of it.

He was sure many others believed the same, that the Watchers were too dangerous to try to contain. He remembered, after he initially built the cage, being intercepted by a whole group of Hermits on the way out.

Doc, Ren, Cleo, and Joe. They all had ideas, ways to keep the server safe, and they all agreed with Tango. The occurrences on the server were getting out of hand.

Tango had been amused by Joe, who seemed like he had simply just come along with Cleo, and seemed quite bewildered at the whole ordeal.

He winced as another throb of pain laced up his arm. The burns weren’t terrible, they were just taking a long time to heal. He still got a bit dizzy when standing up, and his right leg had been struck the hardest.

Nevertheless, Tango would stay with Xisuma.

The watchers did need to go.

Permanently.

So when the time came, and they had a watcher contained...

That was when he would strike.

~ ⬩ ᓭℸ ̣𝙹リᒷ. ⬩ ~

Ren nodded. His friend was right.

He had just heard the chilling tale of what happened to Doc just a few days ago. The watcher had approached him with clear intent to destroy, to kill. Doc had gone on and on, talking about how it had hurt Tango and Keralis, and the ordeal impulse and Bdubs had gone through.

“It’s like they see us as lesser beings, as playthings!”

And Ren agreed.

He had seen the damage these things had caused the server, and he trusted his friend. It was time for this to end.

As they sat on the unfinished goat statue, Doc threw a bit of crumbling and charred stone into the air and watched it tumble towards the troubled sea below.

Doc produced his netherite sword, and began to polish it, wiping off smudges until the surface was glassy and mirror-like.

“We’re going to stop these creatures.”

He held the blade up to the light, and it glinted dangerously.

“Whatever it takes.”

~ ⬩ ᒷ⍊ᒷ∷ ⬩ ~

It was ready. The trap was beautiful, cunning and creative. A watcher would never see it coming, allured as they were to fear and pain. They would be too focused to notice the trap closing in around them, or the lava slowly oozing down the metal bars of their new cage. In any other location, they would sense it, but the netherportals behind the walls would sap their energy even more, causing their focus to narrow.

Someone would have to manually chain it, of course, but that would be considerably less difficult when the watcher was weakened.

Xisuma ran one last test.

Watcher flies in, lured by a single person, alone and “lost”

Xisuma glided through the cave on his elytra and landed about halfway through the tunnel, just in front of Etho.

Hermit presses the button...

Xisuma nodded to Etho, and the Hermit pressed a hidden button.

And now we’ve caught ourselves...

The blocks beneath him cycled out, turning from rough stone to tough iron floors. The ceiling did the same, and iron bars quickly slid out of the floor, trapping him. Finally, lava poured over the cage, effectively trapping Xisuma inside.

...a watcher.

Chapter Text

“3… 2… 1… GO!”

Xisuma’s voice rang through the jungle, and they were off.

Nine Hermits zoomed through the jungle, feathers and rocket trails swirling through the air.

Xisuma took off and watched from above as his friends soared through an elytra course of his own making.

The first was False, who had reacted to Xisuma’s countdown the fastest.

With his agility and small form, Grian was in second, fast approaching False.

In third, having almost fully recovered, was Tango. He was only a bit behind Grian, but he could not seem to overtake the speedy bird man.

Only a few metres behind Tango, Ren was beginning to catch up, trying to push Tango down to fourth place.

Zed was in fifth, trying his best to catch up.

Cub and XB held 6th and 7th. Cub was drifting through the loops, carefully avoiding any contact, and XB was doing much the same.

Xisuma flew along with them, watching events play out. Since he didn’t have to make it through the hoops, he could easily keep up with False. She was focused like no one else, her goggles fastened and her normally loose hair tied up and tucked behind her. She was in it to win it. Xisuma slowed down a little to watch Grian. They had considered making him wear an elytra for the sake of fairness, but now the wings were too large to fit underneath an elytra comfortably. However, the use of his wings still couldn't seem to get him into first.

A yell behind him made Xisuma turn, and he saw that Tango had smacked into one of the hard concrete rings. Ren had taken the opportunity, and leapt into third.

Cub began to approach Tango, and at this, the hermit rubbed his face and leapt back into the air.

Ren’s small success seemed to boost his speed, and he began to get closer to Grian. Grian didn’t seem to notice, absorbed as he was in the twists and turns of the course.

Xisuma saw False hesitate some ways ahead, forgetting the route for a moment. Grian took full advantage of this, racing forwards and gaining on False quickly. Tango had damaged his elytra a bit when he hit the ring, and was now far behind, contending with Cub to get fourth place. XB simply seemed to be enjoying himself and, despite his slow speed, still softly ran into several hoops.

Xisuma heard a yell, and returned his attention to the front of the race. Grian and Ren were right beside each other, but Ren seemed to be struggling. The gusts from Grian’s wingbeats were setting him off course, and he wobbled dangerously close to some of the rings. False was still in the lead, but not by much. Slowly but surely, Ren and Grian were catching up.

As Xisuma followed them, he glanced up for a moment and was surprised to see a wall looming before him. He lost track of the race for a moment, trying to right himself. He laughed, and spammed his rockets, catching back up. However, now Grian was right behind False, and Ren was a ways behind. Looking back, he saw Ren frantically using rockets, regaining altitude.

Ah. he must’ve hit that ring.

Now, with Ren too far behind to catch up, they were in the final stretch. False looked back quickly, and seemed to be surprised by how close Grian was getting. She fired off a few more rockets, and began to widen the gap between them.

Grian seemed frustrated, and his face was beaded with sweat. It looked like every wingbeat was a struggle. False let out a laugh of exuberance as she soared through the last hoop, and headed straight for the finish.

An angry light shone in Grian’s eyes as he followed, and his wings lit with small crackles of electricity. He barreled past False and smacked into the finish line just before she aligned on the platform. Falso seemed shocked and confused.

This is bad. They gave him those wings, I'm sure of it!

I think it's time to put an end to this, and put the plan into action.

~ ⬩╎リ⬩ ~

Grian strode into the centre of the shopping district, his tail swishing over the bricks. He wore the mask, but this time, he had a resolution. This time, he would do something good for everyone. He would make up for the bad things he had done, and once he was forgiven, he could reveal that it was him.

And I'll finally be free of this secret!

He sensed a potential opportunity coming from a small cave beneath him.

Someone was confused, and confusion meant that someone needed help. It was the middle of the night, and would remain so. Someone had asked no-one to sleep over the communicator, and it was the perfect opportunity to try to use his newfound power for good.

He followed the feeling of confusion into a ravine.

His talons clicked on the stony floors as he paced through the ravine, looking for the source of the confusion.

Eventually, he turned down a tunnel, feeling the feeling of confusion increase. He faintly heard a voice, whispering to itself.

“So I went left, placed this torch... or did I go right?”

Grian recognized that voice. Apparently, Etho was lost in these caves. He flew through the tunnel until the walls narrowed, preventing him from spreading his wings. Up ahead, Etho was looking at his communicator, presumably trying to figure out his coordinates.

His back was turned, and Grian could easily sneak up on him.

Just before reaching the Hermit, Grian knocked a stone with his foot, sending it rolling across the ground and alerting Etho to his presence. The man turned, his face going a bit pale. He took a step back, and Grian felt the confusion quickly turn to fear.

The extreme wave of power was almost intoxicating. Grian closed his eyes for a moment, feeling the electricity race through his veins.

No! No, use it for good! Help him out.

Grian pulled in his wings more and tried to make himself look less threatening. He reached out a talon slowly, offering his help.

He saw Etho’s expression flicker between fear and curiosity.

Grian closed his eyes, the anticipation was killing him.

Maybe I can finally make amends...

Suddenly, the fear seemed to ebb away. Grian opened his eyes eagerly.

Etho was grinning triumphantly, leaning on a... a stone button...

It's a trap!

Grian tried to flee, but metal bars closed in around him. He tried to break them, but his arms felt suddenly heavy. As lava flowed around his enclosure, two other Hermits, Xisuma and Tango, emerged from the shadows, congratulating Etho. Grian felt weak and helpless. Even moving his arms was a struggle.

What is happening?

The sound of pistons echoed around him, and he was quickly enclosed in a small 3-by-3 metre cage, hot iron surrounding him on all sides. He stared hopelessly out of the cage, barely able to stand upright. Xisuma stepped forwards and removed his helmet. Grian shivered.

Cold hatred shone in his eyes.

“We’ve got you now.”

The strider man fastened back on his helmet and reached out towards the floor. Grian was looking about rapidly, searching for a means of escape.

His energy was rapidly fading, he felt sleepy, and could barely move anymore. In a last-ditch attempt, Grian took some of his stored up power and sent it crackling along his cage. He collapsed, weak from the exertion. Xisuma jolted back, barely avoiding a surge of purple energy.

The lightning dispersed in a few minutes, and the cave was silent.

Grian heard the crunch of footsteps, and someone whispering.

There was an odd pinch on one of his wrists, and then the other, he lifted his head and tried to figure out where it came from.

Xisuma quickly darted away from the cage, and Grian saw why. His wrists were now chained to the metallic floor, keeping him in a kneeling position. There really was no way out now.

I have to let them know it's me now. It's my only choice.

He opened his mouth to speak, bracing himself for the turmoil this would cause.

Oh, best not to do that little one.

The little voice was back. Grian ignored it. He had to tell them. He again began to speak, and again he paused, the voice returning.

Do not speak, Xelqua. Do not fret, we will come help.

He tried to force the foreign presence out of his head angrily. To his surprise and horror, his mouth would not move. He felt the presence taking over his mind, forcing him to the back.

NO! I need to tell them!

No response.

Etho and Tango had gone further down the cave and were out of earshot.

Xisuma was looking at Grian, as if thinking.

Finally, he spoke.

“Leave. Your kind aren't welcome here. I know why you’ve come, but he belongs with us now.”

Grian remained silent. What was Xisuma going on about?

“Look, there are plenty of worlds out there. Why are you so set on him?”

Xisuma sighed. His next words were soft, pleading even.

“Please, just leave him be. He’s suffered enough already.”

Without waiting for a response, Xisuma stood, walking out of the cave and taking off, Etho soon following.

Grian was confused.

Was Xisuma talking about me? Why would these creatures come for me?

That's when the soft slither of a blade distracted him from his thoughts.

Tango stood outside the cage, and Grian could feel his friend’s fear and pain, washing over him and helping him regain his energy. Tango held a dark blade on one hand, and seemed like he was steeling himself.

Grian sared into Tango's eyes, and paled as he realised his friend’s intentions.

He... he wouldn't... would he?

Tango raised his blade and stared straight into Grian’s face.

“I’m sorry, whatever you are, but you’re a danger to this server.”

Grian tried to stand up, but the chains kept him kneeling. He squeezed his eyes shut, and attempted to use his power, but he couldn't find fear in Tango anymore, only steely determination. Grian felt a few tears begin to wet the inside of his mask. This isn't how things were supposed to go!
He couldn't take off the mask now, he couldn't even move. He couldn't speak. He couldn't do anything.

Someone... please... help me...

Tango lowered the blade and sighed.

He seemed angry at himself, and kicked a rock across the floor.

Grian could see the turmoil written on Tango's face. Become a killer, or risk the server...

He attempted to raise the blade again.

Suddenly, there was a soft flash of light. A tall Watcher was now standing behind Tango, its mask mirroring his own. Tango didn’t notice, absorbed as he was in his own thoughts.

He could feel the creature’s intentions. To kill. To destroy.

He couldn't let this happen. He pushed past the presence in his mind, desperate to save his friend.

“Tango, watch out.”

Tango hesitated as he was about to let the sword drop.

“I... your voice... how do you know my-”

And then a shining blade protruded from his chest. Tango looked down, surprise flashing across his face. The blade withdrew, and Tango slumped to the ground, his eyes blank.

“TANGO!!!”

Grian yelled. The creature approached, but Grian backed as far away as he could.

“Do not be afraid, little one. The player will likely survive. Come, our sibling wishes to see you.”

The creature dropped its blade, and it dissolved into grey smoke. Its talons ripped through the iron bars as if they were nothing, but Grian could tell that this Watcher felt fatigued as well. It broke Grian’s chains, and he rubbed his wrists with relief.

“Come along, before more players arrive.”

They emerged from the cave into the early dawn light. Grian took a deep breath. That was awful. His new otherworldly acquaintance built an odd structure out of obsidian. It was like a nether portal, but it was missing blocks. It looked similar to the symbol on both of their masks. The Watcher made a few odd motions in the air, and a crackling portal opened up before them. The Watcher stepped through, and beckoned to Grian to follow. Looking behind him, Grian hesitated. Who knew where this portal led? He looked back into the portal, where the creature was still waiting.

It's time to go.

It's time to figure out this whole mess once and for all.

And Grian stepped through the portal.

Chapter Text

As soon as he came through the portal, a shiver ran up his spine. It reminded him of the crater, and he got an odd sense of nostalgia. This felt like... home.

He followed the tall, dark-feathered personage through the mist, stepping around hills of porous sandstone and towers of obsidian. The towers got fancier as they walked, from small spires of rough rock to intricate towers detailed with cobble and clay. He even saw a few plants here and there, dark ivy twisting up the columns and pillars of magnificent structures. Here and there, Grian spotted an enderman’s mysterious eyes staring out of the darkness at him.

For every step the figure beside him took, Grian had to take two.

Eventually, he worked up the courage to speak.

“Who- who are you?”

The creature stopped short, causing Grian to trip and turn around. The stranger’s movements were oddly jumpy, so unlike what Grian was used to.

The bird creature put a hand on its chest, robed in glittering cloth that went around its long neck and draped over its shoulders. Delicate, silky cloth also draped over the upper half of its birdlike legs.

“You may call me Sibling Dust.”

Without waiting for a response, they began moving again.

“Okay... so where am I? Does this have something to do with my mask?”

This time the creature kept moving. After a few moments of awkward silence, the Watcher stopped.

“I shall let sibling Void answer your queries. We have arrived.”

They abruptly took off, leaving Grian standing in front of a massive stone archway, glowing runes etched into the hard grey bricks. Large oak doors loomed before him, bits of obsidian set into the wood grain. He reached out his fist and awkwardly rapped against the rough wood. After a short pause, a small, emotionless chuckle filled the air.

“Enter, young one.”

Nervously, he pushed open the door. A few smaller creatures scuttled underfoot, hissing at him as he strode through the crowd. There were also quite a few enderman, but even they were slightly shorter than him.

So this is what it’s like to be tall...

The thought was dashed, however, as he looked up. Down a short hall, a large figure, at least half a metre taller than the other and a full metre taller than himself, sat upon a cobblestone chair. The chair was devoid of decor, small and dusty, but the aura the creature upon it exuded made the rickety chair seem to be a throne.

Its voice, despite the acoustics of the chamber, was soft, and had no echo. Its feathers were a deeper shade of black than the void itself, and glowing eyes lined each feather, watching him. However, something seemed off. The creature's halos were at odd angles, split and shifted.

The same went for its many glowing eyes. They were all fractured, fragmented, glitched, and Grian could see why. The mask upon this creature's face had been struck, split down the middle. A crack, about as broad across as his thumb at its widest point, branched out and across the mask. Thin tendrils of electricity laced the fissure. It seemed as if a soft blow could easily break the mask in two.

He couldn't help himself.

“What happened to your mask?”

At first, Grian saw a small flash of confusion race across its face, then nothing.

“Just as humorous as always, I see. That can be remedied. It is no matter now. You are here, and you have chosen us over playing. A wise decision.”

“I haven't chosen anything! Where am I? Who are you? What are you? Nevermind that, what am I?”

The Watcher stayed silent for a moment, before staring at him curiously.

Grian suddenly felt the presence in his head, looking through his thoughts and memories.

Grian angrily tried to push it out.

“Oh Xelqua, so defiant today!”

The presence receded.

“It seems you have forgotten. Possibly it is advantageous, considering your state when you last were here. I will let Sibling Chorus show you to your quarters.

Gran jumped as a talon gently touched his shoulder. He hadn't even heard it approach, but a Watcher only slightly taller than him with short, spiky feathers was now standing behind him.
He shook off its hand

“Hey. I may have his mask, but I'm still a hermit. I don’t need quarters, my base is in Hermitcraft!”

“Silly Xelqua. You still believe you’re a player? You are one of us. Besides, we need to train you. You could not escape this realm. You are simply too weak to open a portal.”

They demonstrated with a talon, opening a portal without having to place any obsidian at all.

Grian glared at the other watcher. They chuckled coldly once again.

“So much fire in your soul, little one.”

Grian had to get back. There was no way he was going to stay here. The Watcher before him closed the portal, electric power seeping back into its black feathers. Grian had a thought.

If I can use the electricity, and the electricity makes the portal...

Grian closed his eyes and concentrated, imagining the portal opening up, taking him back to his home. Where he belonged.

Home.

The Watcher behind him backed away, and even Sibling Void seemed astonished. Beside grian was a swirling portal, outlined in electricity. It wobbled in the air and fluctuated in size, but it was there.

Sibling Void stood, but Grian stepped through the portal.

Grian couldn't read the expression on Sibling Void's face, but it looked somewhat annoyed.

“What, are you angry at me?” He said as the portal began to close.

As the misty landscape of the end was enveloped by the closing portal, he saw a wide grin spread across the Watcher’s face.

“Oh no, you’ve done something far more dangerous...”

“You’ve impressed us.”

The portal crackled and, with a loud snap, it dissolved into purpley mist.

~ ⬩ ꖎ╎⎓ᒷ, ⬩ ~

A yell echoed through the cave.

Oh no...

Xisuma and Etho ran back though the cave, and were shocked by the sight they were met with. Tango was crumpled on the ground, a netherite sword in his hand. The cage was ripped apart, vicious talon marks feasible on the ragged metal.

“Oh my... Tango!”

Etho ran forwards, and watched as Xisuma crouched down, feeling for a pulse. Tango looked pale, and he wasn’t breathing.

“Why... Why isn’t he respawning? What happened?”

Xisuma did not respond. He pulled up an admin screen on his communicator and desperately tapped the keys. To Etho’s relief, Tango took in a deep breath of air, but his eyes remained closed, and his skin remained pale.

It looked as if he had been stabbed, but there was no weapon in sight, other than the one held by Tango himself.

Xisuma sighed, looking instantly fatigued.

“I’ve gotten him into a mostly stable state, but if we had been a few moments late, he would have died.”

Etho took a step back.

“But... he should respawn, right…?”

Xisuma was inspecting the wound, and was beginning to treat it with various poisons and bandages.

“Ths wound was made by a watcher’s blade. A death by those... it's permanent.”

Xisuma picked up Tango’s limp form, and glanced about the cave.

“I don't know when... or... or if he'll wake up. He was already hurt from that lightning on the last encounter, so this is going to be a long recovery... We’d better get him to my base to rest.”

Etho nodded, and followed Xisuma as he precariously took off, carrying Tango in his arms.

What could have happened? The watcher was helpless. Contained. What did Tango do?

They landed beside the brand new building in the forest, a kind of infirmary in case anything happened again, and Etho was glad Xisuma had thought to make it.

They laid Tango down in one of the beds and covered him with a blanket.

As they entered, Bdubs rushed over with a concerned look upon his normal cheery face.

Bdubs had been kind enough to build the interior of the room, but he hadn't quite finished yet.

“Wha- What happened?”

Xisuma shook his head sadly as he intercepted Bdubs.

“He’s been stabbed, but I've patched it up a bit. Only time will tell.”

As if on queue, Tango groaned softly from the bed. Etho leaned down and sat next to the bed as the others made their way over.

“Do you think he’ll be ok?” Etho asked.

“I... I hope so...”

Chapter Text

We need more members... let's see..

She picked up a small booklet, the names of hermits scrawled upon it, one after another. Some were crossed out, most weren't.

She looked through the list, grumbling to herself.

“Doc maybe? No, I remember him saying that he hated watchers... Xisuma? Maybe, but not likely... Ah! Grian! It's worth a try. Especially with those wings he's got, he’d be able to act a kind of in-between advocate? I mean, Watchers are bird creatures...”

She immediately took off towards Grian’s base. She took along a couple of pamphlets and feathers with her, stuffing them into her already rather full pockets.

~ ⬩ ᔑ↸⍊ᒷ∷ᓭ╎ℸ ̣ || ⬩ ~

Several minutes later, she alighted upon the wooden planks of Grian's base. She called out for him a few times, but it seemed like no one was home. She went through the rooms, tripping over invisibility potions and black feathers.

In one room, she found a pile of crumpled notes, all with bits of some strange language scrawled on them. In another, she found an old photo of Grian and Mumbo from season 6. In yet another, she found a wardrobe, full of strange garments. A Christmas sweater. A little green hat. A guinea pig onesie.
She was about to give up when another thought struck her.

Grian’s starter base! Wouldn't hurt to try, at least.

She zipped through the forest, and ended up perched precariously upon the canopy of one of the large jungle trees. She glanced about, forgetting exactly where Grian’s base actually was. A flash of purple light to her side startled her, and she looked over curiously. Her face lit up with excitement as she saw a magnificent creature emerge from a glowing portal. Its glossy black feathers shone in the light, and sparkling lavender feathers poked out randomly like stars. A long tail swished through the underbrush. The most unsettling part about it, however, was the eye. The head of the creature was ringed with two glowing halos, and above this, a shimmering eye hovered ominously, peeing through the forest.

She watched the tall being take a few steps forward, the portal collapsing behind it. It reached up with one taloned hand and pulled a dark mask from its face. In a strange transformation, its limbs shortened and the feathers receded, leaving none other than Grian standing outside his hobbit hole. He still had the wings, and some feathers, but he was mostly back to himself. He was breathing heavily, and sat down on the forest floor.

False eagerly dove down, landing right in front of Grian. He jumped, standing and flaring his wings.

“Heya Grian! How are you?” False said, chuckling.

Grian seemed to relax a bit.

“I’m... I’m alright. How about you?”

“I’m doing alright. I’m here to ask...”

Grian suddenly seemed to remember something ,and interrupted her.

“Sorry to interrupt, but have you seen Tango lately?”

False thought for a moment.

“Uh... no, I don't think I have. Why?”

Grian seemed to panic a bit, spreading his wings and glancing about.

“Uhh... no reason. Anyway, continue?”

“I initially came to recruit you into my group, but...”

Grian’s face twisted in confusion.

“What?”

“But then... I saw that you were one of them!”

False smiled and eagerly gestured to the hidden pouch that Grian had stashed his mask away into.

Grian’s face went pale, and lightning crackled in his violet eyes.

“Oh, don’t worry. I’m not afraid of you! In fact, I think that lightning thing you do is pretty cool!”

Grian took a step back, his face betraying confusion and dread.

“I... What...”

False stepped forward, and gently put a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey... hey..”

He brushed it off, his breathing heavy. Without warning, he grabbed both her shoulders tightly. His sharp nails dug into her arms, and she winced slightly.

He immediately loosened his grip, seeing her discomfort.

“I... Please don't tell anyone... please... not yet, at least...”

False, looked into her friend’s eyes, and took a deep breath.

“I won’t tell a soul. I promise you.”

Visible relief washed over Grian’s face, and he let his arms drop to his sides.

“So... this group?” he asked tentatively.

False nodded eagerly, pulling out a pamphlet and handing it to Grian.

She cleared out her throat, and began to recite a description she had practised over and over.

“We are a group that strives to respect, befriend, and better acquaint ourselves with the Watchers, for the good of ourselves and of the whole server.”

Grian was silent for a moment, his eyes darting across the pages of the little paper.

“The- The idea is there... but... I don't think this’ll work. I... I actually just got back from their... place? Home? Anyway, they aren't very nice. They didn't want me to come back here...”

“Yeah, but if we can just show them...maybe they'll see we could work together! With the kind of power they have, just think of what we could do!”

Grian’s face was full of scepticism, but he just shrugged.

“I’m not going to get involved, but if you do... just don’t get hurt... I need to go check on Tango, wherever he is...”

“Why?”

Grian’s voice was soaked with guilt when he spoke.

“A Watcher came to help me, but it stabbed Tango in the process...”

False had more questions, but those could be asked after. There was one burning question, however, that she just couldn't wait to ask.

“Wait, Grian.”

She called out as he began to spread his wings. He folded them again and glanced over his shoulder at her.

“Yeah?”

“Could I... maybe see you in your Watcher form again?”

Grian seemed conflicted for a moment. He looked at her, then at the pouch beneath the folds of his cloak, then back at her. Eventually, he sighed, nodded, and pulled out the mask. False inspected it closely. She pulled out a small notebook and began taking notes, much to Grian’s amusement. The mask shimmered slightly, almost as if it was enchanted. It was a rounded rectangle, small curves forming a gentle point for a nose and tapering off towards the edges. Little lines of dark, abyssal black were etched across the surface.

Grian raised the mask to his face, grinning broadly. In a reversal of the process she had seen earlier, he morphed into a tall watcher.

He smiled, and False shivered slightly. She could still see her friend’s face, but it was a bit odd seeing Grian taller than herself.

“Oh.. Wow...”

He laughed slightly, “Now watch this.”

He lifted one sharp talon and pointed it at a nearby rock, old and covered in moss.

False watched closely as lightning began to flicker across the mask and through his wings. She felt the hairs on her arms stand up, and with a loud crack, the rock was struck with a bolt of purple lightning. Grian tensed suddenly, his wings flaring outwards.

“Woah! That was cool! How-”

He looked up at her, and even without seeing his eyes, False could see his look of pain. His expression changed suddenly, a broad smile spreading across his face. More lightning crackled around his body, charring the small plants at their feet. Falce winced and covered her face.

Once there was silence, she chanced a look. Grian was now hunched over, breathing heavily. Her friend’s normally pale skin was pitch black, and as he stood up again, she took a step back.

His wings were completely black now, and glowing purple eyes lined the undersides, watching her every move. The halos and eye above his head were glowing brightly, and his now Watcher-like maw was scrunched into a snarl.

“G-Grian?”

He shivered slightly, and then collapsed, returning to his normal watcher form.

False rushed over. The hermit’s eyes were shut, but his eyebrows were knitted together, and sweat beaded his forehead.

“Grian, what the heck was that?”

No response.

“Grian!”

She wrapped her fingers around the edges of the mask and tugged. Eventually, with a few flickers of lightning, it came off. Grian took a deep breath, and returned to his normal form, his eyes snapping open. He stood, but wobbled slightly, and False reached out an arm for support.

“What... what was that...”

Grian’s face was fearful, but he shook his head.

“I'm not sure but... I need to find Tango.”

Grian took the mask from her other hand and stashed it into his inventory, then bounded forwards into the clear blue sky.

“Can I come too?”

Grian paused, then nodded.

“If the injury I saw was as bad as it seemed, we might need the help.”

Chapter Text

Tango too? What if I'm next?

Jevin shook his head solemnly. He couldn’t stay here any longer. He didn't feel safe.

Rumour had it that a small group of hermits had set out to make a new home, out in the wilderness somewhere far away from the chaos of main Hermitcraft.

Sounds like a great idea.

He just hoped he could catch up to them. He had been told that Keralis said they were going northwest, across the ocean, and were going to set up there.

With a direction in mind, he set off, equipping his elytra and bidding his oceanic base goodbye.

It was time for a new start.

~ ⬩ ᓭℸ ̣ ∷╎ꖌᒷᓭ, ⬩ ~

Hypno hopped down from the building he was working on, and landed nearby Keralis. The hermit was already busying himself, and had almost finished figuring out the layout of the paths and little houses he planned to build. Hypno chuckled, and began to check some of the shulkers.

Nope. No. Still no...

“Hey Keralis, do you know if we have bricks?”

Keralis looked up from his work, his face smudged with dirt.

“I don’t think so, but you could ask Stress to be sure.”

“Alright, thanks.”

He took off again, heading into the mouth of an already beautifully built castle front.

He landed a bit clumsily in front of her, and she jumped back in surprise. The Hermit quickly got himself up and brushed off, before asking Stress the same question

“Nope, sorry. There is that lake we passed over while we were comin’ here, there's probably a lot of clay there...”

Hypno nodded, and Stress went back to her work, carefully decorating the little hallway.

He sighed. He had hoped someone had brought some, but the lake was better than nothing. He spread out the silvery membrane of his elytra and took off again, heading back south.

The landscape rushed by beneath him, a blur of green. After some time, he landed with a small plop next to a large lake. The water was relatively shallow, and he waded in cautiously. After scoping out all the little clay patches, he waded over to one, and began to mine it, the wet clay clinging to his fingers. He stuffed as much clay as he could into shulker after shulker, and by the time all the boxes were full, he was tired, dirty, and soaked in sweat.

He smoothed back his wet hair and packed up all the boxes, getting ready to head back to New Hermitcraft Haven. It was getting late, and mobs would begin to spawn soon. He looked up, and immediately began to panic. A figure had just rocketed across the sky, flying directly above.

Hypno cautiously wrapped one clay-coated hand around the hit of his sword, just in case.

“Hypno!” a very familiar voice called out.

His tensed shoulders fell as he relaxed, and waved to the figure, who was descending towards him.

Jevin landed with a soft gust of wind, his boots sinking into the sand upon the shore.

“What’s up?”

Hypno laughed and stepped out of the water to greet his friend.

“Just collecting some materials. What brings you all the way out here?”

Darkness fell across Jevin’s face, his jellylike skin losing some of its lustre.

Oh no...

“Uh... yeah... um... yeah, Tango might die...”

Seeing the confused look on Hypno’s face, Jevin elaborated.

“Uh... X says... X says if he does... it’ll be permanent...”

Hypno went pale.

Permanently? But we always respawn!

“And that's why I’m here, so I'm not next.”

Hypno took a deep breath, and forced himself to smile again. Fear pounded through his head, but he forced it down. He was safe here. They were all safe here.

“Well, in that case, let me show you where we’ve set up camp!”

He waved Jevin forwards, and the two hermits took off into the lightening sky. Leaving behind the lake, they flew north, dipping in and out of the clouds.

Beads of water glowed amber against Hypno’s skin, reflecting the light of the rising sun. The dry sands of the desert raced beneath them. After a bit, however, drab green patches began to appear. Soon, dry, yellowed grass covered the ground, rustling as they flew by. Leaning trees reached out their thin branches, flat canopies casting cool shadows upon the ground.

The grass got greener and greener, eventually growing tall and verdant. A few wild horses grazed in the distance, and a small family of chickens squawked angrily as they soared low. Approaching a large hill, Hypno saw the outline of a huge castle, a few little houses spotting the lush fields around it.

He looked back at Jevin, who was smiling broadly.

“This is so cool. You guys’ve been hard at work huh?”

Hypno nodded, and waved to Stress as they began to descend.

Once they were safely on the ground, Jevin greeted the Hermit, Who had taken off her pin sweater and was wearing it around her waist, tools tucked into it like a utility belt. White sparkles flashed in the air for a moment as Keralis swooped in on his elytra.

He hit the ground hard, but came up smiling.

“Wow, you guys have quite the build coming along here!”

“Yup! We were just finishin’ out with the lil’ village, I’m gonna start on some of the farms while the others build the castle. Wanna help?"

Jevin smiled, the sun glistening off of his translucent blue face.

“Sure!”

Hypno laughed, and meandered away with Keralis.

~ ⬩ ᔑリ↸ ⬩ ~

They had been here for several weeks, and the base was almost done. Keralis was nearly done with the castle surrounding the farms they had made, but right now, he was taking a break. Jevin, their newest member, had also been hard at work, and had managed to get together a small trading hall of villagers.

A bang and a startled yell from below him redirected Keralis’ attention, and he chucked softly. A creeper had snuck up on Jevin, and his gelatinous blue body was now covered in char from the explosion. The Hermit sighed and opened his mouth, enveloping a golden carrot whole.

Keralis looked down at the finished bottom section of the castle. The stony walls enclosed a huge item sorter, and watery pathways wound all over the room with items flying through them at high speeds. Above him, scaffolds of dirt hung in the air, marking out where the rest of the build would go.

He sighed, brushing small pebbles and dust off his clothes. A week or so ago, they had all seen an announcement in the chat that Tango had briefly woken up, but since then, there had been no news of what was going on with the rest of the server.

He was glad that Tango was not dead, at least. He had been a bit worried, as cut off as they were from the rest of the server. The only one of them that had been back was Stress, who had flown back to the shopping district for a few minutes to buy some rockets. Deep down, he missed the others. Deep down, he knew that he would eventually go back. Deep down, he knew that no matter how scared he was, no matter what was happening at spawn, he would drop everything if someone needed his help.

He sighed, and looked about. It had rained that night, and the trees in the distance were covered in small jewels of water, hanging from their branches and leaves like ornaments. The late morning sun cast a warm glow on his surroundings, and he closed his eyes, soaking in the warmth.

His communicator buzzed softly, but he ignored it. It could wait.

This was a nice place to be.

Stress had flown up to the ledge he was on, and had put a hand on his shoulder.

Keralis kept his eyes closed.

“This is such a nice morning! Its warm, It’s-”

“Keralis.”

Hearing the fearful notes in her voice, Keralis opened his eyes curiously.

“Hmm?”

“Look.”

Stress showed him her own communicator.

“What...What the heck? What is that?”

“I think... I think we need to go back.”

Keralis shivered. There was real danger now, and running away would do no good.

He stood up, and met Stress’ stern gaze with one of his own.

The time for hiding was over. It was time to fight.

He glanced at his communicator one more time as they flew off to tell the others, and winced.

The message on the screen shone bright, foreboding and sinister.

iskall85 hit the ground too hard whilst trying to escape  ̇/ᒷꖎᑑ⚍ᔑ

Chapter Text

Tango groaned, and opened his eyes slowly. It was dark out, and he didn’t know where he was.

How did I get here?

He thought back, going through what he could remember. He was with Etho and Xisuma... he had caught the Watcher. He had been about to kill it...

Then what?

He tried to sit up and look about, but immediately sharp pain exploded from his chest. He winced and laid down, trying to breathe shallowly. The pain wasn't going away.

His memories rushed back all at once. The feeling of someone behind him. A blade protruding from his chest. And...

And the Watcher warned me...

He needed to tell them. He needed to let everyone know.

That voice, that familiar voice...

He had to find Grian.

Tango tried to sit up again, but fiery pain shot through his chest once again, and he cried out in agony. He looked down, and his midsection was wrapped in neat white bandages.

I suppose getting stabbed is not an easy recovery...

He let the pain abate for a moment, and then the sound of soft conversation met his ears.

“Haven’t seen you in a while, G. It's been almost a week...”

The voices faded out again. Tango shifted a bit and propped himself against the wall, trying to hear more.

“... and X says he’s pretty hurt, but he’s recovering much better than we thought he would.”

“Can we come in and see him?”

“Sure, he’s right around here.”

The crunch of footsteps sounded, and three hermits entered the room. First was Bdubs, who beamed from ear to ear once he saw that Tango was conscious. Tango smiled lightly as Bdubs approached, watching the short little man make his way over. Second came False, peering at him curiously. She had a new shirt on, similar to her old one, but it bore a small purple eye design on the front, and a feather pinned to the collar reflected the moonlight beautifully.

Lastly, red-clad and feathered, was Grian. Tango jolted upright in his bed, causing him pain, but he ignored it.

“You! Grian, what are you?”

Grian took a step back, his eyes widening in fear. Bdubs looked over at him curiously.

“I...”

“You’re a danger. A menace!” He reached into his inventory for his sword, but it was nowhere to be found. He stared straight at Bdubs. In the corner of his vision, he could see False reaching for her weapon also.

Is she one of them too?

He dropped his voice to nearly a whisper.

“Bdubs, give me your sword.”

“Tango what’s wrong? It's just Grian. Besides, you should be resting.”

He reached out and gently tried to push Tango back into a lying position.

Tango pushed back, trying to stand up. The throb of his wound became over powering, and his vision blurred for a moment. False and Bdubs rushed forward to catch him, and laid him back on the bed.

He had a headache now, and he was starting to fall unconscious again. As he struggled to keep his eyes open, he could just barely see Grian approaching him, leaning over him. As his eyes slowly closed against his will, he heard one last whisper.

“I’m sorry...”

And then everything went black.

~ ⬩ ᓭℸ ̣∷╎ꖌᒷᓭ, ⬩ ~

It had been a while since he had come here.

Dry air made his lips cracked and sore. He stepped out from the shelter of the shade, and shielded his eyes as the sun glared into them. It was time to see what he could do. If he had this power, versatile enough to harm others badly or teleport across dimensions, maybe...

Maybe I can help Tango somehow...

It had been two weeks since Tango had gotten hurt, and he had only awoken once.

He looked closely at his mask before putting it on, following the little black lines that wound their way across it. He brought it to his face, the feeling of his body morphing now quite familiar. He stretched out his birdlike legs and flapped his wings. He ran a hand across them, feeling the soft feathers shift under his gentle touch. As he brushed out the dust and debris, something interesting caught his attention. The lines on his wings were now bright purple, and he had barely any light feathers left. It looked quite cool, but it was also a bit confusing.

I wonder why they’re turning black?

He then moved on to the thing he was most excited about. If he could travel to the Watcher’s place with a portal, it would probably be easier if he did it within this world, right?

He stretched out his hand, and imagined a portal opening up to... Mumbo’s base! He glanced at his communicator, making sure that his buddy wasn’t online.

He was.

Well, good thing I checked.

He shook his head.

How about something simple? I’ll start small.

He concentrated, imagining a portal to the little mini-base he had made by the stream, but all that appeared was a small flicker of lightning. He sighed. The only reason he had been able to do it last time was through other's fear and adrenaline, but he didn't want to have to do more harmful things.

I need to figure out a new way...

He thought a bit, then smiled. It would be risky, but it might be just crazy enough to work. He took off, and flew a short distance, very quickly descending and landing beside a massive ravine.
Rough stone and bubbling magma lay for him at the bottom, and Grian gulped. Hopefully, this would work. He closed his eyes, and without opening his wings, leaped into the fissure. The rocks flew past him, and he imagined being anywhere else, somewhere where he wouldn’t get hurt, like the river by his mesa base. He reached out his hands, begging for a portal to appear. The lava grew closer and closer, and Grian could feel the air getting hotter. There was still no sign of a portal.

Just as Grian was about to bail, he felt lightning race down his arm, and a crackling portal opened up beneath him. He plummeted through, and the air quickly became cooler. He could see the banks of the river fast approaching, but his portal had been off, he was too far away from the water. He snapped open his wings, and when he landed, there was a smile on his face. He may have failed with the preciseness of his portal, but this proved that he didn't need anyone else's fear. He could simply use his own!

Xelqua...

Grian stood bolt upright as the sinister voice echoed around his head. He remembered what had happened last time he had heard this.

Get... out...

Xelqua, why would you do such a thing?

Stop...

He could feel the presence worming into his mind, taking him over.

Players don’t deserve our kindness. You have become too attached, little one.

No...

Little sibling, come join us! We will show you-

NO. No. I want to stay here.

There was a pause, and Grian felt his muscles loosen, the presence receding for a moment.

He let out a deep breath, but his relief was short-lived.

The presence returned, bearing down on him.

It seems I will need to force your hand. One way or another, I will change your mind. And look, a perfect opportunity.

Grian couldn't move, couldn't feel, but he could see, and what he saw horrified him.

This is what happens when you get attached, dear sibling...

He saw his neighbours, Scar, Iskall, and Mumbo, peering over a nearby hill.

~ ⬩ ᔑリ↸ ⬩ ~

The creature was clutching its face, writhing with what seemed like pain.

Darkness was crawling up its neck, enveloping its face, and small eyes were opening all over its body.

Mumbo pulled out his communicator, typing into it frantically.

“Mumbo, run!”

Scar called out to him from a little bit away. The creature was now on all fours, its skin a dark grey shade and beady eyes opening up all over its skin and wings. It crouched down and lunged at them, snarling. Mumbo tried to hit send, but the beast knocked him over, resetting his communicator and pressing him against the hot clay. Its many glowing eyes peered at him angrily, and the creature’s face was twisted into a snarl.

Iskall ran in, sword raised high, but he was swept aside by the creature’s thrashing tail. Mumbo watched in horror as Iskall was swept over towards a large ravine, and desperately attempted to shove the creature off of him.

The Swede dug his blade into the sand, but the soil around him was loose, and the sword slid through the sand easily.

Mumbo managed to escape from the creature and ran to help his friend, but was quickly blocked again by the dark beast. It had turned to Iskall, thrashing its tail and knocking Mumbo off his feet.

Mumbo heard a growl and a yell. He stood up, and watched helplessly as Iskall scrambled desperately at the reddish sand, but with a terrified yell, he slipped off the edge.
An echoing, sickening, gut-wrenching thud, and the yells cut off abruptly.

Mumbo winced at the hiss of burning items, and his communicator buzzed, broadcasting Iskall’s death to the server. To avoid the same fate, Mumbo ducked as the creature attempted to shove him in, too, narrowly avoiding being struck by a large black wing.

Scar ran at it with his sword, and got a direct hit, slicing a gash in one of its hind legs. It reared up, growling in pain, before turning its attention to Scar.

Both Hermits hurried to take off, but Mumbo hesitated. The creature had stopped abruptly, and it was clutching its face again, and when its talons came down, the skin was no longer grey. It looked up at them, and mouthed one word.

Help...

A moment later, it gave a humanlike cry of pain that quickly transitioned back into a snarl of anger. Mumbo called out to Scar while trying to avoid the beast.

“Wait Scar... I think it needs help...”

“What do you mean? It's trying to kill us!”

“It keeps going back and forth between what it was before and the creature now.”

Scar came back down, and took another swipe at the creature, this time catching it in the leg. It screeched again, only anger showing on the bottom of its face, but Mumbo noticed tears streaming down its feathered face from under the mask.

The mask! That’s got to be the problem!

“Scar, I have a plan!” He yelled out.

“What?”

“I have a plan! When I say, land on it really hard, ok”

“Alright, I hope you know what you’re doing!”

Mumbo waited, dodging the creature's talons, but one caught him in the chest. The hit sent him skidding across the ground, a shallow gash across his arm and torso. It stood over him, and raised a talon for the final blow. At that moment, it snarled again and clutched its head, shaking violently.

“Now Scar!”

The air was knocked out of him as Scar slammed into the beast, pinning Mumbo between it and the ground. He winced as the gash across his chest twanged with pain. Mumbo quickly reached up, and grabbed the mask.

A painful jolt of electricity raced up his arms, but he kept holding on. The lightning grew stronger, and Mumbo winced. The creature tried to rear up, but Mumbo held onto the mask tightly, and in one loud crackle of energy, the creature was sent flying back and landed on its own wing with a loud crack.

Scar rushed over and helped Mumbo get up. Surprisingly, he was mostly unharmed. The palms of his hands were a bit burned from the lightning, and the gashes across his torso were throbbing with pain now, but other than that he was mostly ok. He set down the mask, and went to inspect the small, motionless form lying on the sand. It was garbed in a dark shirt and a silky cloak. It still had wings, but they were much smaller, and the tail was gone altogether.

“Uhh... Mumbo...”

“What?”

Scar had gone round the other side, and was inspecting the person’s face.

“Mumbo... Mumbo, it's Grian...”

Mumbo came around the other side, joining Scar, who had a hand to his mouth.

Lying on the sand, their ferocious attacker, was his best friend.

Chapter Text

The qna idea flunked terribly. Seems like reader count has died in the recent chapters and it is big sad.
Anyway this means that the next chapter may not be done in time, so there might not be an update this week.
If you wanna help out, you can share this story with your buddies! I mean, it's not bad writing I think and the plot is pretty gripping, so what's there to lose?
Sorry bout the update, see you all later!