The Hendricks family picnic had just started in the outskirts of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey as the sun shone through the canopy tops. Two children spun around the base of a tree, wielding foam sword toys, swiping and striking at one another in their glorious imagined battlefield. A pair of women sprawled out a wide polka-dotted blanket on a patch of soft earth, away from the prickling pine needles. One only just settled down a woven picnic basket when the sun began to fade.
"Oh," the taller of the two ladies grimaced as she looked up, "it was supposed to be sunny all day."
"As long as it won't rain," the shorter of the two said as she laid out plates, "you did check the weather before we drove out here, like I asked, right?" she said, pushing her long black hair out of her eyes as she glared a the taller one.
The taller woman, with blond hair and brown eyes, glanced back, and then to the clouds. "I did," she muttered, "It said sunny all day."
"Well, lets hope our date out isn't ruined," the smaller crinkled her nose and sniffed, and began to pull out food from the basket. She then turned to the children by the tree, who started running towards a large protruding stump on the ground. "Kids! Don't run too far, lunch is almost ready!"
"Okay mom!" they shouted back, and started running towards one another, swinging their light foam swords.
"Swoosh!" one of the children, a young girl made a sweeping sound as she bent low and made an overcommitted swing at her brother. The boy gasped and fell back, untouched.
"That was too powerful!" he gasped, crawling towards the stump.
"Haha," the girl said as she stood up, "I am the greatest sword-fighter in the land, my foolish brother," she declared, pushing her blond hair out from her face. "Now, surrender!" she demanded with a thrust of her sword, pointing at his face.
"I see," he said, and nodded, and lowered his sword. "You clearly are better than me... at sword fighting."
The sister made a dramatic gasp. "What do you mean, you evil being?!" she stepped back, holding her sword at the ready.
"I am not just a swordsman!" he declared, and held out his hand in an upwards clutching sound, and made a loud 'Pssshhfvrooo!' sound, "I am a powerful wizard! You cannot stop magic!" he shouted, and then pushed his outstretched hand towards his sister dramatically.
She stared. He made the same noise and motion again; anticipating that, well, maybe she saw something else. "Emma," he whined, "I'm throwing magic at you, you need to do something about it!" She then whimpered. The brother of Emma stared at her. She had never convinced him before like that of her fear.
"Hey, I'm sorry," he said, lowering his hand, "I didn't mean to-"
Sound, low and deep like an earthquake rattled behind him. All the warmth of the day for the boy escaped him. He realized with a dawning sense of urgency and terror that his sister had not been looking at him, but above and behind him. And so he turned, very slowly, to see what had stricken his sister with such fear.
Some thirty yards away, the parents continued to argue.
"I swear, I did check," the blond argued.
"Well, here we are, wishing we had coats or umbrellas," the darker haired one pointed out, and the sound of oncoming wind made her laugh, "ah, see? Already- its a storm-"
The screaming of two children broke their tension. The taller immediately turned and ran, while the other spun in place, tripping over the sheet, and on the taller ones heels.
"Arthur! Emma!" the two cried out, running towards their children. They were crying and running towards their parents. After a moment, the two pairs met, and each child took a mother in their arms. "What happened?" the tallest asked, "did you see a bear?"
"A monster!" the boy screamed, "he's right there!" he pointed.
"Don't be silly," the darker haired woman chuckled, as the blond looked onward, "there's no such thing as-"
The gust of air that billowed suddenly into their faces caught all four by surprise. A shadow rose from the earth. The four watched as goosebumps rose across their skins, a single wing rise up from the supposed stump the children played by. It was huge: a bat-like webbed wing, nearly ten feet across. Then the other wing shot up, in a second gust of wind and a deep 'woosh'. Slowly, the stump revealed more and more of itself as something tall stood very slowly, casting the family into a deep shadow. A pair of glowing red eyes blinked into existence.
The four humans stared back, but only for a very long, tense, moment.
All as one, the group screamed, the two children lifted up and carried, as they made like a bat out of hell and ran towards their van, ignoring the picnic food and material. They practically had the children thrown into the van, and in moments, the wheels of the vehicle spun, spewing loose pine needles around before it made a rush down the dirt road that lead towards civilization.
The shadow passed over the picnic sight. A clawed hand reached out.
Then another gust, this time able to make a debris cloud spiral into the woods, knocked over loose branches, logs, and small animals caught in the wind. The shadow raced skyward, and with a bellowing roar, the beast vanished.
"And that's how I beat Bill Cipher in the alternative time line that I sorta accidentally created," Soos shrugged.
Four faces stared intently at the supposed handiman. It had taken an hour since they re-entered their small two room motel set-up to get to the end of the story. Dipper had been taking notes next to Stanford, who had been doing the same. Both man and teen had been listening intently and focused onto Soos the entire time.
Mabel had been patting Soos' arm for the better half of the story. It had taken a bit of coaxing to relax him after a bit. "I'm so sorry, I made such a goof up," he had said, and cried before them. Mabel had assured him as best she could, and by the end of Soos' story, he was happy and cheerful again. Wendy, as usual, was cool and quiet, watching very closely and listening.
"So," Dipper and Ford both spoke at the same time, and then looked to one another. Dipper glared, and looked away.
"Ahem," Ford cleared his throat, "this is a fascinating story, one that I wish we had any evidence to support."
"Soos doesn't need evidence!" Mabel declared, "he is above those paltry means! He IS the evidence!" she cackled.
"Mabel, dude," Dipper looked at her with side-eyes.
"I'm sorry dawgs," Soos said as his head hung low, "I wish I had something to show you guys, but I'm telling the truth!"
"I wish I could completely cast aside any doubt in mind," Ford said, as he closed his own notpad, "but I cannot. Science is based off of fact and evidence."
"Soos has never lied about, like, anything," Mabel declared, red in the face, "I trust him almost more than I trust Dipper!"
"What?" Dipper whined.
"Hey, I said almost, you boo-hoo-baby," Mabel pointed out to Dipper, and then stuck out her tongue.
"Well, not to beat a dead horse," Dipper sighed, "I sort of agree with Ford on this one. This new demon, Kelly? We've never heard of her, not once, in the entire time we've dealt with Bill: who is supposedly her brother?" Dipper pointed out, "you'd think that kind of detail would pop up. Bill is a talker."
"I dunno," Soos scratched his chin, "she kinda made it seem like the two didn't always get along, and lemme tell you, when Bill found out it was Kelly that changed things, he got really mad."
"Soos," Dipper rubbed his head through his newly regained cap, "I want to believe you, but-"
"I believe him," Wendy blurted out.
"-uh, but I think evidence can be hard to come by and this might have to do," Dipper suddenly admitted, "and maybe we can acknowledge this as real. For now," he muttered and added a note, trying a look to Wendy, who hadn't looked his way.
"I felt something when we found Soos that I hadn't in a long time," Wendy said, pushing herself off the wall with her back, "that kind of magic or power is, like, scary. I don't know if its Kelly Yore, or whatever," she said as she walked closer to the others, "but I don't think its at the level we usually deal with. Like, head-hauncho stuff."
Ford sighed and fiddled with the pen in his hand. "If we can suspend our doubts and assume that everything Soos has said is true, we are dealing with a powerful Demon, possibly one more powerful than even Bill Cipher," he explained.
"You really think she's more powerful than Bill?" Dipper asked, looking to him finally.
"In terms of making deals, absolutely," Ford nodded as he began to chew on his pen. After a moment, he laid it down and sighed, "Bill Cipher has always made do by playing to the future interests of people- what they dream about, their fantasies. Just like them, who hasn't looked back at a moment in life and wondered 'I wish I could have done something better'. If the philosophy of Chaos Theory is considered, and we examine the Butterfly effect-"
"The what?" Wendy squinted and rattled her head.
"I love butterflies," Mabel chimed in.
"The Butterfly effect is when you change something small," Dipper explained, "and something much larger than the actual change is altered. Like a tornado being altered because a butterfly flapped its wings in a certain spot at one time last week," Dipper shrugged.
"Or," Ford added, "removing one person from a hired position and it changing the face of an entire town. Kelly demonstrated that by doing something as small as removing you from my building, then employed by my brother," Ford rolled his eyes, "that she can alter history and everything we know."
"Then why hasn't she altered history to be how she wants from the beginning?" Mabel asked, "like, make planet 'Kelly', or something?"
"Because she seems to need peoples permission to alter it. Without a living consent from a being, she may have little to no power at all," Ford speculated as he adjusted his glasses.
"If that's true, then who knows how many times Kelly may have altered the past," Dipper quietly mentioned. They all looked to him. "If each time Kelly altered the past," he explained, looking to them, "the only person who felt a difference was the person she made a deal with, who knows how much history could have been because of her interference."
"Even more concerning then," Ford pointed out, "is what Soos said about you two," he pointed to the twins.
"What did we do?" Mabel gasped.
"Yeah, what are you saying?" Dipper rounded on Ford, who barely flinched.
He felt his six fingers on each hand, rubbing them. "Well, if we are continuing the assumption that this all very much actually happened," he declared, "then Kelly made a statement at one point that she-"
"Had dealings with us," Dipper finished, suddenly remembering Soos' tale.
"I don't remember anything like that," Mabel quietly said, playing with her hair.
Dipper took off the cap, staring at it. Only just returned to him by Jess, he wondered what else could have been done in his life that he didn't remember. The idea of remembering what Cipher had done with his body in the short time he had made the deal was scary enough, but to not know entire interactions with demons...
A loud buzzing in his pocket shook Dipper from his doubts and fears. He growled and removed the phone, holding it out. He knew exactly who it was, and as the four stared at him, he opened the phone and answered, "Zander."
"Dipper, guys," Zander's voice called out on the speaker phone, "and, uh, I guess Stanford is there too, right?"
"Super-right!" Mabel cheerfully cried out, leaping next to Dipper and Ford, sitting between them. "How's it going, super-secret agent Z?" Mabel giggled as she fell back.
"About as well as it can," the voice of Zander Maximillion said, "I need to haave you guys get on the move A-S-A-P."
"Why?" Wendy asked.
"The Gang intercepted a new order from the Clutching Destiny," Zander announced, "Graupners little cult of maniacs. It was a two-fold order: the first is to move on with something called 'Operation Green Flame', and I have no idea what that is," Zander whistled. "Oh, and that another order was given to hunt you lot down and kill you."
"What?!" The five gasped.
"Relax!" Zander laughed, "we took care of it!"
"How do you take care of an enemy's need to kill us?" Wendy asked.
"Did you convince them to stop and re-think their life?" Soos tried.
"No, we just made a lot of ruckus and had them switch from targeting you guys to targeting the Paths. So they're off to Mississippi to find us, which leaves you guys alone for now," Zander explained.
"What's in Mississippi?" Dipper inquired.
"Absolutely nothing, which is why I'm trying to bring their main forces there," Zander chuckled, "then when things explode and fire starts, there won't be so much pain. But enough about me and the Paths. Let's talk about you lot, since I know you've been waiting on this call."
"Please, enlighten us," Dipper mumbled.
"We're ready and at the word!" Mabel cheered.
"Good, because time isn't really on our side," he said through the speakerphone, "based on our readings, magic of the world is already twenty percent higher."
"Only twenty percent!?" Dipper snapped.
"That sounds about right," Ford sighed.
"You mean twenty percent is enough for ghost mansions to come back, and for mer-dawgs to come back too?" Soos asked, his eyes wide as he looked from one person to another.
"Yup," Zander answered, "And it's only climbing higher. We'll be looking at an exponential growth soon- this next week should show a percent growth each day, and then that number grows. Remember, by the end of this month- we could see an explosion of magical phenomena across the globe."
"Not such a terrible thing," Ford grumbled.
"Perhaps for the scientist," Zander retorted, "but for those in need, those with greed, and those who just want to hurt, its a bountiful opportunity. One we need to stop," Zander sighed, "which is why I'm sending you to collect a stash of Starkissed I've been looking for."
"A stash?" Wendy repeated. "Not, like, one small rock?" They turned to their small pile, now exposed on the bed behind the twins and Ford.
"That's right, a stash," Zander affirmed, "a collection large enough to do something drastic, which we might have to resort to," Zander mumbled, but continued quickly, "something that we can't let Graupner and his goons get to."
Mabel chuckled, "Graupners goons," she muttered.
"Where is it?" Dipper asked.
To hear nothing from the line gave the five pause. Ford looked around to the rest of them, watching their expression grow wary. Finally, the ancient Gaurdsman spoke, "To the Pine Barrens. In New Jersey."
"Oh, well that's not too far," Dipper shrugged as Ford stepped up, scratching his chin.
"I'm glad you're thinking this positively," Zander sighed, "Honestly, I was worried that you would all reject this one, but I need you all to move quickly- A few hours might be all you get before Grasping Destiny realizes they want you guys more than us." He admitted. "They're not pleased with what you guys accomplished in Pittsburg."
"Hah! Losers," Mabel blew a raspberry.
"All we accomplished was getting away," Dipper replied.
"Which was more than they anticipated," Zander explained. "Remember, you're a focus on Graupner. Until we get this whole end of the world thing, we just need to keep avoiding him again and again."
The gang exchanged looks. It was a pain to be hunted day after day, not to mention by a fanatical bunch of maniacs. Still, Dipper nodded, and continued. "So we're just going to the woods?" Dipper asked, "any specific target?"
Zander began. "Yes. But I have no idea where it is. Mostly because I've been looking to find this thing for years, before I took on the persona I had as a musician."
Ford suddenly darted over. "Wait a second there, Mister Maximillion!"
"Yes?" the phoned voice asked back.
"You're sending these kids to it?!" Ford barked.
Zander audibly sighed. "I said I was surprised for the optimism-"
"Wait, what are you two bickering about?" Dipper asked.
Ford turned to him and Mabel. "You two never grew up in this area. Those woods, the Pine Barrens, aren't just a wooded region. They're infamous: practically feared. Old folk- oh- I guess people my age, used to say that at night if you entered alone at night, that you would not be returning."
"That night?" Soos asked, "like you're going camping." When Ford shook his head, Soos gulped. "So more of the creepy stuff," Soos worriedly confirmed.
Zander continued, "Ford is well informed. You're looking at something dangerous, but we need what it's hiding."
Ford gasped and snatched the phone. "It really has Starkissed stones?"
"Orbs. Probably half a dozen or so orbs, not stones," Zander explained. "They're going to be much larger than the pebbles I've been sending you after-"
"What does?!" The twins cried out.
Ford looked to them, and then to both Wendy and Soos. "One of the oldest tales in America. Not a man, but born of one. Not really of this earth, but it stalks the night. Walks on hooves, but able to soar into the sky... the Jersey Devil."
"The freakin' what?" Wendy spurted.
"Oh no," Soos cried out, "not another demon!"
Mabel turned to her brother, "You know anything about that?"
Dipper nodded. "I think its an old cryptid. Sorta like mothman-"
Ford spun to Dipper. "This makes the Mothman look like a butterfly!" Dipper and Mabel leaned back. He continued, "this is the most dangerous of Americas cryptids- stories of people vanishing into the woods, never returning, happen for years, decades! Technically centuries!"
"Wow," Mabel gasped, "what about aliens? They abduct people."
"They at least return them," Ford claimed. "Those who go missing... are never found again."
"What about mole-people?" Soos claimed, "which I have been mistaken for one once or twice in my life," he proclaimed happily.
"Don't make me laugh," Ford barked.
"Well, not to make it sound any less terrible than it already is," Wendy stated, "I'm also here, and I'm supposed to be an evil undead thing. So... it can't be worse than me," she explained as she crossed her arms.
Zander piped in. "Stanford isn't wrong. This thing is very old, and very dangerous. Not a whole lot of people have ever seen it without fleeing or trying to run, which is why I... would understand if you tried to leave. This won't just be another monster. It's got prestige and history; a long one. You guys said you've met demons, yeah?" Zander asked, "Well... It might be time to challenge the devil."
Five figures felt shivers along their backs at those words. Zander seemed to feel their apprehension, as he continued.
"I have a bit of history on the area- a very long time ago, before the devil was known, there was a shipment of Starkissed Orbs from a collective of Wizards and spellcasters. They lost the shipment somewhere in the east coast of America, and that is where I think the Jersey Devil comes in. I have always had suspicions, but I'm convinced the Jersey Devil is hiding the stones."
"And you know this, how?" Ford asked.
"I had history with those people," Zander admitted.
"What kind of history?" Dipper also chimed in.
"One that is not important at the moment," Zander sighed, "focus, please. I don't know if it speaks, or even if its more than a rampaging monster- but with magic growing, so will its powers. Catch it quickly, and get the stones. Text me when you do. I should have good news following this collection."
"Oh?" Ford asked.
"If its as large as I hope, we might be able to nip this whole disaster in the bud," Zander explained rapidly, excitement betraying his words, "and then this all ends. Life returns to normal."
"Well, we aren't scared of no demon or devil!" Mabel bellowed. "We'll take 'em on!"
Zander laughed. "That's the kind of energy and hope I like! Remember: text me as soon as you have them. Then we get this all wrapped up... I hope." The call ended, and the four looked to one another.
"So, back on the road again?" Wendy asked, rubbing her hands together.
"I guess so," Dipper shrugged, "we could use one, but if Zander thinks its that important, I'm not sure what else we can do."
"You value his word so much?" Ford pointed out. Dipper turned and looked to him, opening his mouth for rebuttal.
"No," Mabel sighed, "he's just seen how many times Zander has been right before." The two stared at her, their gazes somewhere lost between dismay and frustration. "Hey, he hasn't failed us yet," she repeated, "why stop trusting him now?"
"I feel compelled to point out my own personal experiences provide the ability to poke holes in your evidence," Ford crossed his arms, "just because someone has been able to convince you of their intentions thus far doesn't mean they are incapable of betraying you or manipulating you."
"Trust no one," Dipper quietly stated, gaining the attention of the room.
Soos clapped his hands together, "Welp dawgs, I think we should get back on the road. If this monster is really spooky and the bad dudes are after it too, we should totally get moving."
"I second that," Wendy said, gathering her few things, and putting on her jacket.
"Fine by me," Mabel nodded, and turned to her brother. "Dip?"
Feeling the eyes of the room, Dipper shrugged. "Let's get these stones."
Ford said little else as the gang and he climbed into their cars and bike. Wendy, as usual, climbed onto Mabel's pink motorbike, and checked back with the others with a small grin. Dipper and Mabel climbed into his car, while Ford and Soos got into the El Diablo. Much to Dipper's great memory, the drive to New Jersey wouldn't be anything too terrible, especially since they had been going about the entire nation of America since the beginning of august.
The trip out of the city felt right, like a weight off their shoulders. As they saw the tall, distant buildings fade away, there was a feeling of leaving away a trouble. Soos in particular hummed happily, and would occasionally smile at Ford. The twin would not entirely return the happy attitude, but eventually gave into the cheeriness, and put on the radio with Soos. Dipper focused on ahead.
Hours passed, and they passed over the borders into New Jersey. "Mabel," Dipper said, "we're in New Jersey."
"So we're back where the Pine family began," Mabel whistled, looking around, "you know, it doesn't look too different. Less mountains than Oregon, but who needs it when you have... a million Pine trees!" Mabel chuckled, poking her cheeks.
"Ugh," Dipper shuddered, "anyone saying that just gives me flashbacks."
"Oh, what," Mabel rolled her eyes, "So because Bill Cipher calls you Pine tree means you'll never be able to look at that," she pointed to a passing pine tree off the road, "or that one, or that one too, or that one three, or-"
"I get it, Mabel," Dipper shook his head in exasperation, laughing despite himself.
"Just chill out," she told him as she bounced once in her seat, "this whole thing will be a cakewalk."
"I dunno," Dipper mentioned, feeling the lining of the third journal in his vest, "when Ford found out what Zander wanted us to do, he kind of freaked out. The same person who is chill about Bill Cipher, or at least chill enough to be okay battling him if we needed to. When he heard we were going to find this Devil thing-"
"Well, there's no point in worrying," Mabel sighed.
"Maybe there is this time," Dipper claimed, "if what Zander said about the presence of magic being drained from the world, then the weaker or less capable monsters of the world should have been gone too. This one has been here almost the entire time the starkissed stone," he explained, "which means this thing-"
"Okay," Mabel blurted out, falling into her seat more, "so, there might be something a bit more to worry about this time," she admitted, and looked to him, "but if Zander thought it was so dangerous, why not send him? He can fight magic people who can blow up, like, entire mines."
Dipper looked back to his sister. "I... I don't know. That doesn't make any sense though. If we need to fight this thing," Dipper explained, "he could have come himself. He's sending us instead..."
That train of thought went unanswered for several more hours, and remained unanswered when the small caravan arrived at the beginnings of a very large sprawl of woods known as the pine barrens. Located in the eastern regions of New Jersey, the sights of the coming late afternoon and speckled cloudy sky were hard to make through the thick canopy above. Coming to a slow stop by a nearby gas station that was also a antiques store, that was also a family restaurant, the five finally stretched their legs.
The purring of Mabels bike came to a stop, and Wendy stepped off, approaching the two cars. "I dunno dudes," she said, nodding towards a mess of a business front, "you guys wanted Jersey Devil, I think we might have hit the jackpot."
As Dipper got out, he scoffed. "Maybe a little too much," he said. True to Wendy's word, the entire front of the building was covered in what appeared to merchandise for some sort of winged-devil-creature-thing. Garden gnomes, sighs, hose nozzles, garden flamingos, inflatable's- everything needed for a tacky front yard that was also Jersey Devil related was present.
"This is it, for sure," Ford declared as he stepped out with Soos.
"Really?" Dipper laughed, "This, of all places?"
"Trust me, those who gather idols like that know a thing or two about their region," Ford stated as he sidled next to Dipper, "You may just have to hear through all their crazy wild theories to get to what is actually important," Ford explained, and took out his wallet, "and maybe buy a refrigerator magnet or two."
"I WANT FIVE!" Mabel roared as she leapt ahead, holding out the given 'endless' credit card from Zander.
Soos gave the air a punch. "Me too! Also, I wander if they make hoagies to go."
"Well, either way," Dipper declared, "let's find out what's inside."
The stampede from Mabel let no survivors. Several pottery pieces, mostly terrible looking statues of the supposed 'Jersey Devil' fell and clattered to pieces at her coming wake. A bull in a china shop, Mabel only slowed to a stop after the fifth piece of destroyed property. "Sorry," she cried out, each time she broke something. Dipper grew red in the face, looking around for anyone who could possibly find offense in her actions. Still, no one came out to meet the sounds of breaking garden gnomes.
Mabel opened the doors, and the five stepped into a world filled with packing boxes. A large open space lay before them with a pile of tables and chairs laid in a corner to their left. In the center of the building, where the picked clean remains of a shop counter were, a woman on the phone chatted. She loudly conversed, picking at her teeth absentmindedly with a long, paint worn nail. She had a faded sundress on, and her hair was in a bun atop. She was just passed middle aged at a quick glance, with graying black hair and wrinkles beginning to show.
"We're closed!" she hollered at the five.
"You gas pumps outside?" Wendy quickly pointed.
"Take 'em!" she said with another bark, "don't care enough to stick around!"
Wendy looked to the four. As they all shared the same confused expression, Wendy shrugged and strolled back outside, calling back over her shoulder, "I'll get whatever is left in the pumps."
"You four," the woman snapped, "We're out of business! I just told you's that, so get lost."
"But I wanted magnets of the devil," Mabel whined.
"Fine, go ahead through the boxes," the woman rolled her eyes, and hung up the phone and then muttered, "damn movers."
"Yush!" Mabel and Soos cheered, and started pulling open boxes, sifting through them and finding odds and ends. Dipper watched them as Ford stepped closer to the counter.
"Ma'am," Ford cleared his throat, "you seem in a rush."
She eyed him, and put her hand at her hips. "No more business 'round. After the last sighting, people are packin' up," she declared as she examined her finger nails, and flicked away the gathered gunk from her teeth to the floor, "so I'm outta here before it gets me next."
"Wait," Dipper marched up, "there are people missing? From the Jersey De-"
"SSHHH!" the woman hissed at him. "You don't say its name!"
"Really," Ford rolled its eyes, "people have given it another superstition?"
"Don't care what you say," the woman snarled, and pushed herself away from the counter and around the side to stand before the two, "but I'm not interested in invitin' it, by name, into my home. Ex-home," she reminded herself.
"What has been happening?" Dipper tried his best to use a firm, steady voice, "can you say what you've heard about?"
"It might help you to know we're here to assist in whatever has been happening," Ford said with a small smile.
The woman barked a laugh and rolled her eyes. After she gave them a look, she asked, "you're serious?" and when they said nothing, she took out a cigarette. "Fine, whatever," she shrugged as she lit it and started smoking, "Government sendin' kids and shrimp to look into a killer monster. Sounds normal."
She took a long breath, and exhaled the smoke. "Earlier this month," she started, "it was quiet, like usual. Then, out of the blue, sightin's started happening way more. Way more, got that?" she pointed at them with the cigarette, "not even a handful- every day someone saw it flyin' around. That's crazy! This past week, its been like it's just goin' around terrorizin' the woods! Never been this active. So everyone who lives around here sane enough to move is!" she explained.
"So its hurt people?" Ford asked, a bead of sweat trailing down his jaw.
She stared at him. "No, stupid. No one has stayed put enough to let it. But a tourist family saw it real close to here, and they said it was gonna kill them if they stayed too long."
"So it hasn't actually hurt anyone?" Dipper repeated, and looked to Ford, "at least it isn't just killing people."
"You buncha idiots could be the first," the woman said, and picked up a cardboard box, the one that Mabel and Soos had currently been rummaging through.
"Hey!" Mabel cried out, loosing her chance to scrounge for more magnets to keep- her collection already at an impressive twelve.
"I'm leaving here now," the woman declared, "I don't care who stays or what you want. Just know only fools and crazies are staying behind."
"So, uh," Dipper scratched his head through his hat, "you don't mind if we can, you know, use your place as a base of operations?"
"Burn it to the ground if you want," she cried back over her shoulder as she stepped outside, "just leave me out of it."
"Okay, we might just do that," Dipper waved to her as she gathered many more boxes and stormed through another door past the counter top, "thanks for your-" the door slammed shut with a clatter, "rude," Dipper grumbled. In the distance, a cars engine rumbled, and through a window, a small truck hurtled down the road.
"If locals are fleeing the area," Ford announced as Mabel and Soos re-approached them, "then the situation has grown dire. Tourists are one thing, but people who have history here are willing to claim onto it as long as they think they can. But this... this is a whole new level of terror," Ford sighed, rubbing his hair, "If only my bro-" he stopped, and looked around before clearing his throat, "we should try to set up something here. Perhaps a simple base of operations?"
"I guess that can't hurt," Dipper nodded.
"Unless it does, because this is haunted by a pair of old shop keepers who hate teenagers," Soos suggested.
"Too real, Soos," Dipper glared at him, who shrugged.
"Is that a pop culture reference?" Ford asked, "I don't really... get it."
"Had to be there to get it," Mabel said, chewing on one of her found magnets. When Soos and Ford looked to her, she added, "Ask Wendy about it."
As the fading blues of the sky found itself into hues of red and orange, the five set up a small, simple task board, surrounded by the left behind chairs. Dipper began to collect information using his phone- going through the most recent of news articles relating to the beast of the Pine Barrens. After some time, Ford offered assistance, and with a begrudging attitude, Dipper allowed him to help. Shortly before dusk fell, the five collected themselves before the board.
"So this plan shouldn't be any worse than a standard bait and grab," Ford announced, tapping the board.
"Bait and what?" Mabel scratched her head.
Dipper leaned to her, "What we usually do when we trap monsters," he explained, and she gave a short 'ah' acknowledgement before he continued, looking to the board. "So far, each sighting of the monster has been in rapid fire. No bias between day, night, dawn, dusk, etcetera. That's only a first glance, though," he mentioned, "if you look closely, the only times people seem to get too close for comfort, and I mean actually close," Dipper added with a scoff.
"None of that 'I saw it from the sky' stuff," Ford added, "very much close encounters with this being."
"We now know that it seems to act accordingly to one very big target," Dipper said, and pulled out a left behind box, kicking it open, "Boom," he said, pointing to pile of bags of chips.
Soos gasped and looked Dipper dead in the eye, "Bags!"
"No," Dipper sighed, "food."
"Wait," Wendy held out her hand, "this things big, scary," she held out her hands, "grrr, I'm going to eat you, crime," she lowered her hands, "is stealing... food. Like what the gnomes used to do."
"Hehehe, I like devil Wendy," Mabel chuckled, and Wendy grinned and poked her.
"Sorta," Dipper acknowledged with a nod, "it so far hasn't harmed anyone yet, but... it's the amount of food taken that's crazy."
"We talking a whole pizza buffet?" Soos asked, suddenly dead serious.
"All you can eat," Ford declared. Soos scowled, shaking his head. The scientist continued, "analyzing the numerous reports of food that were located, and then later found missing is a staggering amount. Several tons of food have been lost, assumed stolen, during its numerous sightings."
"So it's just super hungry?" Wendy suggested, "can't really see a crime there. Like, the day I can eat again, I might be the next Jersey Devil," she joked. Dipper looked to Ford, who glanced back. "Oh," Wendy shook her head, "I can't believe you two just had a 'well, about that' moment. What is it?" she asked with a grumble.
"Ford had a, uh, good idea," Dipper mumbled, scratching his nose.
"Oh, quite to the contrary, this was inspired by something Dipper said while setting up the board," Ford waved the acknowledgement aside, "we found it remarkably similar to what birds or other nesting creatures will do when preparing for a newborn arrival."
Mabel gasped, dropping her collection of Jersey Devil magnets. "Baby Devils!?" she gasped.
"It makes sense with what Zander was inferring," Dipper shook his head, "the return of magic would prompt things that hadn't happened in a long time to suddenly start again. Curses return, spells grow in power, and now... maybe lone species barley holding on start to flourish again."
"So... its just going to lay eggs, or already has?" Wendy asked.
"It's are newest theory," Ford admitted, "and admittedly based on no evidence. Merely a number of hunches. But if one of these things are bad, wait until it hatches a dozen or so more!" Ford shuddered, "baby devils flying through the skies. Just what I need to think about at night, camping alone in the woods."
"So, the plan then," Mabel stood, eyeing the two before her, "get a large bundle of food, put it somewhere really obvious so we can watch it all the time, and when it tries swooping in, we grab it with nets we position, like, everywhere so it can't get away. Then, we tag it with something so we can follow it, and BOOM!" she punched her hand, "we grab the orbs and book it!" Dipper and Ford stared for a very long time. Mabel after a moment, made a quick 'pop' with her lips, and asked, "Or... is that not it?"
"Uh," Dipper looked to Ford.
"No," Ford nodded his head, "that's pretty much everything."
"Yeah, summed up the plans nicely," Dipper shrugged.
"Girl power," Wendy offered Mabel a high five, who eagerly took it.
"So... when do we begin?" Mabel asked.
"Immediately," Ford declared, "this thing seems able to quickly ascertain the presence of food. We need to set up these traps, and a simple tracker-" he withdrew a thin cylinder of plastic, and bent it. It began to glow brightly. "Will be attached to a rope we need to attach to some part of the beast. Once it has been, we keep eyes on it, using Wendy and her bike-"
"MY bike!" Mabel roared.
"... the pink motorbike," Ford corrected after a moment, "and follow it."
"Fine by me," Wendy nodded.
"What can I do?" Soos asked.
"Simple," Ford approached him, and put his hands on Soos's shoulders, "your technical know-how makes you invaluable for this mission. As soon as possible, craft a make-shift trap that will allow us to grapple with the creature. Is that fair?" Ford asked. Soos stared at him, eyes wide. "Uh... you okay?" Ford asked.
"Sorry," Soos chuckled, "you, uh, just reminded me a lot of Mister Pines for a second there."
Ford cleared this throat and turned away, towards Dipper, "You and I must begin determining angles of approach, and more importantly, likely areas it will retreat to."
"Then lets get to it," Dipper said.
"Wendy, lets help Soos!" Mabel cried, and the two girls walked after Soos, who rushed out of the abandoned building.
Two hours and sixteen minutes later, the plan had been made, and the trap set. The crate of food, a, over-spilling pile of junk food left behind by the angry woman, sat in the middle of a clearing in the dying light. Two separate air cannons some twenty feet back were operated by Mabel and Wendy, who had parked the bike right next to her. Far above the clearing, suspending by a collection of ropes, pulleys, and a lot of duct tape, Soos held his own air cannon, stuffed with many feet of netting. By the bushes, Ford and Dipper poked out their heads.
"Okay," Dipper gave as loud a whisper as he dared, "now we sit and wait for this thing to show up. How're we looking?" Dipper asked.
"Like two nature nerds in the woods," Mabel snickered.
"Ditto," Wendy shrugged and winked at him. Dipper did his best to refrained from swooning, and looked to Soos.
"Soos, you okay?" Dipper asked.
"I'm doing my best to avoid looking down," Soos called back quietly.
"Soos, you're literally aiming the air cannon at the ground," Ford mentioned.
"Yeah, talk about skill, right? Can aim it without really looking," Soos gulped.
"Uh, you sure?" Dipper asked.
"Absolutely. Whatever gets close to the pile gets netted," Soos stated, "boom! You're fish tackled, dawg!" he chuckled, and then gulped.
Ford and Dipper sighed and retreated back behind the bushes in one quick drop. "So, best chances are the girls?" Ford asked.
"Soos set it all up, give him credit," Dipper grumbled.
"I will. His ability to manufacture from nothing is a skill worth noting. However," Ford glanced up into the trees, "I am concerned about his combat skill."
"He once made a steam geyser erupt by literally hitting the ground with his fists," Dipper retorted as he folded his arms.
Ford held out one of his fingers, ready to defy the comment. But he paused, and then tilted his head side to side. "Fair point," he added.
"Soos will be fine," Dipper said, "he's not fast or really agile, but he can hold his own. If what he said was really true, and I always believe Soos," Dipper looked intently at Ford, "if he's right about the kelly yore stuff, he proved that he can handle everything on his own."
"And with that version of miss corduroy," Ford argued, "who seems to have plenty of skill for this sort of ordeal."
"Yeah," Dipper sighed, and turned away. He pushed down a branch, staring at the distant red-head hiding in the trees. He saw her, and smiled. "She's really good at fighting. Like, always has been able to hold it on her own. Mabel learned from a master martial artist, but Wendy- she's all natural."
"You certainly hold her in high praise," Ford said, sidling next to Dipper.
"Yeah," Dipper sighed deeply. When he noticed Ford looking intently at him, he closed the branch and cleared his throat. "Well, I trust her."
"So I see," the scientist nodded. "Considering your relationship-"
"What relationship?!" Dipper whispered, "there's nothing official! She's never said- I never told- who are you assuming- what-"
"Okay, okay," Ford held out a hand, "Dipper, calm down." The younger twin took three long, deep breaths, and finally looked back to Ford. "What are you going on about?"
"Me, and Wendy," Dipper shrugged.
Ford chuckled lightly and nodded. "Yes, you two are sort of in an odd position. She is very honest about her condition," Ford said as he adjusted his glasses, "which is rare in such a person. Honesty is a blessing, but can be a curse."
"She would know if it was a curse," Dipper heatedly retorted.
Ford held his palms out, "Dipper, I mean no offense."
"Right, Sorry," Dipper grumbled.
"I, uh," Ford looked to him as Dipper turned away, "assume you two have talked?"
"Sort of," Dipper mumbled.
"Ahhh, so you have my tenacity for women," Ford sighed. Dipper turned, his brows furrowed as he was entirely uncertain to what Ford meant. The older man sighed, "I wasn't too sharp with ladies."
Dipper blinked. "Or chats with anyone, apparently," Dipper pointed out.
Ford chuckled, "I suppose. When you see a girl though," Ford sighed, and looked into the sky, "you get that frozen sense. Like everything you want to say is right there, under a layer of what you know you should say, and if you peel away that layer, it just seems dangerous. Risky. Stupid," Ford sighed, playing with his six fingers on his right hand. "But if you manage to say it, it just falls out like a broken casserole: gross-looking pieces."
The words that Ford used hit Dipper un-expectantly. It wasn't quite perfect for the bubbling mess that roiled in Dipper whenever he wanted to say something personal to Wendy, but... something about the layer and looking under it made sense to him. Dipper looked to his elder, the man from a different time. There was a certain similarity between the two that maybe Dipper had overlooked in the time he had suspected him of being the older man that had betrayed him once before.
Dipper straightened himself up, and cleared his throat. "It's a weird way to talk about liking someone."
"I suppose you're right," Ford nodded, "but that's the curse of thinking too much sometimes," he admitted, "when there is an obvious answer, and then from the fear of failure we create a million more possibilities to rely on."
Dipper went to open his mouth, to respond, but a voice from nearby the clearing called to attention. Wendy whispered, "guys... I don't see anything, but I just got a crazy feeling-"
"We totally weren't talking about you!" Dipper hissed, poking his head through the bushes. His face heated up as the three around the clearing stared at him.
"Nice," Ford rolled his eyes as he poked his head through as well.
"I meant to say that I think something is getting closer," she said, and ducked into the shadows slowly, taking time to slowly turn and look away.
Red in the face, Dipper snapped, "Okay, take positions!" and ducked into the bushes, but not before seeing Mabels face. She smirked and bit her lip, attempting to stifle laughter. Back through the bushes, Dipper hit himself in the head with the third journal. "Dang it! Stupid! Uggh!" he grumbled under his breath as he smacked himself again and again.
"Stop reprimanding yourself. You already punished yourself with that scene," Ford muttered, looking to the sky. "Focus on the task at hand. Also, those books are fragile, so stop that," he warned.
Dipper managed to give himself one last quick 'thwack' with the journal before putting it back, and looking around. "So, what are the Jersey Devil's signs?"
"Well, it has the ability to fly," Ford turned to him, "so keeping an eye out for a gust of wind."
"Right," Dipper nodded, closing his eyes and feeling the coming night air. "Wind..." he muttered, and peered with squinted eyes the darkening woods. "I don't feel any," he pointed out. The skies grew darker, and Dipper turned his gaze once again skyward. Clouds were forming rapidly, casting the afternoon dim glow into darkness. "Can it control the weather?" Dipper asked.
"Not to my knowledge," Ford shrugged.
"Then what else do we look for?" Dipper asked, glancing back to the clearing.
"It supposedly takes the appearance of a man, a deer, and a bat; or samplings of animals that also look like them," Ford shrugged, "with hooves, bat like wings, and... arms?" he tried, looking around as well.
"But what does it sound like," Dipper grumbled.
"I have no idea," Ford admitted, "too many different accounts tell of its call are varied. It could sound like anything!"
"Does it do anything?" Dipper asked, looking at him directly now, "have any visual clue?"
"Dipper," Ford whipped to him, "this isn't a time to begin pestering me about the details. This thing is large enough to be easily spotted."
"I'm not pestering," Dipper noted with a bite, "I'm asking for clarification. You're the one who knows most about this monster, and I want to make sure I can tell when it shows up!"
"A half man, half deer, half bat will be fairly easy to notice!" Ford snapped back.
"What makes you think that?" Dipper whispered heatedly, "it's already really dark!"
The grumble of something very alive but the power of a car engine stunned the two arguing scientists. The sound had come from almost next to them. Dipper gulped as the two slowly turned and looked in its direction. Ford whispered, "because its eyes always emit a deep, glowing-"
A pair of eyes flashed out into the night, glowing red with an energy terrible to behold. Dipper gasped and shivered, while Ford nodded, "yeah, exactly like that."
The eyes, previously at their eye level suddenly rose to be many feet above them, and the eyes grew so bright they illuminated the entire part of the forest. As Mabel gasped, the entire gang saw it: nearly twelve feet tall with a goat or deer-like head, standing on cloven hooves in digitigrade-like legs. Large antler-like horns wove through the air above the elongated head, and with a gust of wind, the two massive wings shot outwards, nearing twenty feet in length. A leathery, scaled tail stirred behind it, easily ten feet long.
Then it roared.
Dipper fell backwards through the bush as he felt the wind pass him. The lungs of the beast must have been massive as it nearly sent him off his feet, but instead he stumbled back and tripped. Then there was the noise that roar made- something between a deathrattle of a man and the warcry of something inhuman. It was shrill but deep and resounding, and cut deep into Dippers mind as a noise he would never forget. His blood ran cold the moment he gasped and scrambled backwards.
"Dipper!" Ford yelled, running through the bush and pulling Dipper to his feet. The older man yanked his arm, and Dipper made every conceivable effort to rise back up to his own standing, but found the sight of the... the beast something scarier than anything he'd seen recently. The Chupacabra, the curse at the Gracey Estate, even Bill Cipher himself... Ford had been right- this thing invoked terror unlike anything Dipper had ever encountered.
"Net it!" Dipper screamed as he started to run towards the clearing.
"Gotcha! Soos to the rescue!" Soos shouted and fired his own air cannon.
A second later, Ford was planted against the ground. "Not me, you idiot!" Ford cried out as he fell onto his own back, tangled by a good selection of fishing net.
"Soos to the apology!" Soos cried out, "Sorry! You were at the pile!"
The beast moved over the bush, its feet making the ground quake ever so slightly. Dipper looked over his shoulder, watching it approach, cautious step by cautious step.
"Eat Bolas, freak!" Mabel shouted as she ran out of cover and fired her air cannon. The length of rope with a weight on either end spiraled out, just narrowly avoiding Dipper's face. Spinning around and wrapping around the monsters legs, it reeled back, and with a flap of its wings, rose into the air.
"Oh no you don't!" Wendy warned, and fired her own air cannon. Similar bolas flew upwards, and wrapped one of the wings in place. With a bellowing cry, the beast fell to the ground, sprawled out right before Dipper and Ford.
"Dipper, just get it!" Ford said, trying desperately to clear himself from the netting.
"And if this thing eats you!?" Dipper shouted back, trying to assist, but only found himself growing more and more frustrated. "How do people even use this stuff!? It all looks like you're pulling out the same tangled parts again and again!"
"Now is not the time to panic," Ford said, pointing behind him. Dipper looked over, and saw Mabel rush forward, only to be swatted at by the Devil.
"Woah!" Mabel yelled as she flew into a bush, to bounce back onto the ground with a flop. "I'm okay!" she said. The monster tore at the ropes on its arms, and threw it into her face, blocking her sight. "Pleh-" she spat out some of the rope that had landed in her mouth, "Slightly insulted, but okay," she corrected.
"Go assist!" Ford reminded Dipper, trying to push him away, but only succeeding in flopping himself onto the ground, "I'm no use here," he hissed angrily.
"I'm not that good as a fighter as those two," Dipper pointed out, missing how Wendy rushed forward, and swung the now useless air-cannon at the monster like a baseball bat. It roared as it hit its head, but it reached out, trying to snatch it away, and Wendy ducked and swung again, this time hitting it square in the jaw.
"You don't need to fight like them to be useful," Ford reminded him.
"Huh?" Dipper asked as Mabel joined the fray, jumping ontop of the monsters head, and started rapidly punching its skull. Wendy made another go at slamming it with the air-cannon. Seemingly smarter than it appeared, it leaned its head forward, letting Mabel take the blunt. Lucky for Mabel, Wendy gasped and reeled back as she winced, trying to avoid hitting the brunette.
"Thanks Wendy!" Mabel grinned as she casually punched the monster. Then it swung a back-handed swat at Wendy, sending the red-head soaring. "Sorry, Wendy!" Mabel called after her.
"Wendy!" Dipper shouted, and turned back to the beast.
Mabel was now playing keep-away from the monster, who was trying with great frustration to snatch and hold onto Mabel. She ducked and weaved, but the size and strength of the creature made it a dance with death itself. When Wendy came rushing back, this time it reached out and caught the air cannon in its hand, and started squeezing.
"Hey! I wanted to keep that pvc pipe!" Soos yelled from the trees above as the weapon splintered.
"We've bitten off more than we can chew," Dipper said, beginning to breathe faster and faster. "Soos!" he roared above, looking for the handiman.
"I-I don't have a good angle!" Soos shouted back.
Dipper cringed, feeling sweat grow across his brow. This thing saw Wendy step back, and this time the monster stepped out, and with a lightning-fast stomp, pinned Wendy to the ground. From under its huge hoof, Wendy gasped, but didn't stop trying to push it off of her.
"It's... really... heavy!" Wendy managed to wheeze.
"HEY! Let her go!" Mabel roared, and lunged off the monster, leaping off its head. No sooner had she landed than she rushed forward, and punched it square across its face. It recoiled slightly, and turned its gaze to her. Mabel stalled, staring back into the deep red eyes. "Uh... please?" she asked.
It roared once again, letting Mabel this time face the full fury of its presence. In the moment Mabel blinked and let her hair grow fizzy, it grabbed her by the head, and lifted her up. She screamed, her voice muffled in the huge hands of the beast. It lifted her high into the air, and growled again.
Dipper's heart sank. Wendy was pinned. Mabel was taken hostage. Ford and Soos were out of commission. How could Dipper hope to fight this thing?! How could they possibly battle something this huge, or strong, or fast? It snuck on them, easily out-maneuvered their traps...
Dipper heaved a panicked gasp for air, and something fell out onto the ground before him.
The third journal.
Ford looked to the object, and then to Dipper. "Fight it!" he demanded, looking to the monster.
Dipper took it quickly into his hands, and flipped through pages. He knew this page, he had used it several days ago. He remembered the smell it caused, he remembered the power it lacked against an undead monster like Graupner.
But this thing... if it was flesh and blood... Dipper lifted his eyes to the monster one last time, feeling the conviction grow as he stood up, holding the third journal in his hands.
He sighed, and readied his mind. He had used this spell before- he was ready for it to do something real nasty to his energy, but it would have to do. At least, he made mental note as he looked to the monster and saw Mabel, that his sister would be incapable of seeing him do this.
"Incresco incantamentum," Dipper started.
Ford looked to Dipper, his eyes wide. "What did you say?" he gasped.
Dipper stepped forward, his arms out and his fingers stretched forward, "Adripio Adtibitus!" he shouted.
The rumbling in the air this time did not come from the beast, who had turned its attention to Dipper, but to the teen twin who had arcs of electricity running through his fingers and arm. The red glow met with a blue one, and the light shifted to a neutral one.
"Hey!" Dipper roared, "Let them GO!" and he cast his hand outward.
The bolt of electricity that shot from Dipper's hand was less of a streak of electricity that he had used against Graupner earlier. To say that Dipper had truly blasted lightning from his hand through the woods was not too far from the truth. The beast howled as it ducked and fell backwards, desperate to avoid the attack, and its grip over Mabel and Wendy fell away. The entire dark woods had lit up, leaving behind an acrid scent of ozone, and several burnt branches behind the now laying down beast. Dipper had been thrown many feet backwards, and landed with a long slide into the pine-needle earth. He felt his world swim, and slowly pushed himself up, panting.
As he did, so did the beast, pushing itself half up, still the height of a six foot tall human.
It opened its mouth and spoke towards Dipper. "'How did you do-" it started to ask with a deep, rumbling voice.
"SOOS DIVE-BOMB!" the proud roar of Soos called into the night. The words of the monster were crushed under the weight of a full-belly crush. Soos had landed square on the beasts back, sending it right back to the earth. Whatever it had to say was squeeze out of it in a loud wheeze, leaving it panting on the ground just as much as Dipper currently was.
"Soos, you did it!" Mabel cheered, rushing to the side of the crushed monster.
"Hah, well," Soos explained as Mabel and Wendy approached his sides, "while you guys were looking awesome fighting it, I was sort of wondering how I was going to, you know, get a cool hit on it without dying from falling too far. So, I figured if it stopped moving for a moment, whack!" he slapped his hands, "and boom, this dawg gets his hit in."
"That was amazing," Mabel patted his leg, as he was slightly in the air, resting atop the now slumped monster.
"I wonder what made it fall," Wendy asked, looking around, "It sounded like lighting, but I couldn't really see where it came from."
Dipper sighed as he began to pull himself up. Ford too rose, finally free from the netting. The older man, clearly able to over-hear the conversations, turned to Dipper. "Why don't you tell them?" he suggested with a smile.
"Huh?" Dipper asked with a small wheeze.
"I'm sure you deserve some of that credit of capturing such a fearsome creature," Ford beamed at him, "not to mention using an empowered lightning spell!" he cheered, "that's just amazing, you should-" Dipper shrugged, and Ford did a double take, "huh? What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Dipper said, walking past him.
"You don't want them to know how much you helped?" Ford asked.
Dipper stalled only once to look back to Ford. "No," He quietly said, "Mabel wouldn't understand," and he placed the journal from off the ground back into his vest.
Ford blinked, but Dipper marched forward. The three had began to tie rope around the stunned monster, but Dipper pushed around, and stepped up to its right eye, which stared back at him. "You can understand me, can't you?" he asked.
"What are you talking about, bro-mo-do-fro?" Mabel asked, cocking her head to the side as she held out half a rope.
"He asked something earlier," Dipper said to them.
"Wait, I thought I heard that," Wendy added, "right after he fell backwards."
"It was so deep I thought I just had a bad case of stomach jostles," Soos explained.
Dipper stared at Soos for a long enough, and then looked back to the monster. "Well? You can speak, can't you?" It nodded its head slowly. "Why did you attack us?" Dipper asked. It growled, and the five readied themselves. Aside from speak, however, it took no actions. It looked up to Soos, who still sat atop it. "Soos, move off its back, but keep on its tail," Dipper ordered.
"Sure thing," Soos nodded, and slid back.
The beast breathed, and glared at Dipper. "I didn't attack," it pleaded.
"You snuck up on us," Dipper pointed out.
"And then roared like a lion that stepped on a cactus that also screamed," Mabel added, "because a Lion stepped on it!"
It looked to the five, and then the deep red glow seemed to, well, roll in exasperation. "I intended to merely frighten you off," it grumbled, and started to rise.
"Ah-ah-ahhh," Dipper said, pushing his hand against its neck. "Don't stand up yet, bud."
"I wish to stand!" it snapped, and added, "in case you've forgotten, it was you all who started to shoot me with odds and ends before beginning to punch my head!"
"It's a specialty," Mabel proudly declared, blowing off dust from her knuckles.
"But I only stepped towards the bags of food," the Jersey Devil grumbled, "making you all the aggressors."
"You cannot blame us," Ford declared as he also approached the beast, "stories of you date back many years, and these past days have shown you to have become more aggressive than ever!"
"I need more food," it grumbled, and looked down to the ground.
"Why?" Dipper asked, "got any offspring to worry about?"
"What?" it spluttered and looked to him. "Does it look... like I can get a date looking like this?" it asked him. The five stared at the creature, frozen in response. After a while, Soos shrugged.
"I dunno dude. Magicians can somehow get dates, you could, you know. Just saying," Soos assured the Jersey Devil.
"If you're not bringing all this extra food for young, or a burgeoning nest," For asked, "why collect record amounts of food?"
The beast sighed. "I've grown a lot."
"Aww, well that happens when you become an adult," Mabel patted its neck.
"No, you incomprehensible girl," it scoffed, "I have physically began to grow like I have not in hundreds of years!" It declared, and pointed to its wings, "My size has doubled since the beginning of august! Where once I could hide easily in the daytime, I must go to great lengths to remain hidden. I need far more to eat than I was able to before," it explained.
"So that's... that's why you terrorize people?" Dipper asked. Then he snapped his fingers, "you're metabolism changed, and the food of the woods that once could sustain you became too scarce for you. So you've tactically begun to scare people so they wouldn't stop you from taking their food!" he guessed.
As it nodded, Wendy sighed, "if only."
Mabel puffed out her lip. "Darn it," she crossed her arms, "I was hoping I could boast about the time I punched the devil in the face to death." Dipper gave her a judging look, and she rolled her eyes, "or until it gave up, that would have been fine too, I guess."
"So you need food," Dipper said, scratching his chin, and turned to the pile of food in the woods. He looked back to the Jersey Devil, "tell you what," he said, and lifted his hand, "we're looking for something specific. You give us a collection of Starkissed stones, and we give you all this food-"
"What!?" the Jersey Devil stood up rapidly. The five stepped back as it stared at them, its inhuman mouth open in what, they assumed, could only be a shocked droop. "He never told me that he would tell anyone else about me holding it for him!"
"Wait, wait, wait," Dipper held out his hands, relaxing his stance, "you know Zander?" he asked, pointing to the monster. Soos stepped off its back.
The monster stood up, leaning away from Dipper. "Who's Zander?" it asked.
"The, uh, Gaurdsman?" Dipper tried.
The Jersey Devil shook its head. With a loud snort, it glared at them, "he wasn't the one with the stone in his eye, was he?" The party of five and the twelve foot monster stared at one another for a tense moment.
Soos then clapped his hands, "well dawg, how about we exchange information while we give you food?"
"And in return," Wendy added, "you, like, give us the stones?"
"That pile of food," the Jersey Devil grumbled, "for the orbs of starkissed?!" it barked.
"Uh..." Dipper looked to Mabel.
"Yeah?" she tried saying in a half-shrug.
"... okay," it agreed. "I wasn't doing anything with that old box anyway," it shrugged, and walked around the stunned party, and started collecting the bags of chips.
"Wait, you'll do that?" Dipper asked, spinning to gawk at the monster, "trade off a huge collection of this stuff for some... kettle cooked potato chips!?"
"Hey," the monster barked, dropping three bags from its arms as it glared back at Dipper, "you try going through growth spurts with that doubles your height, with only pine cones to eat!"
"Dude," Soos chuckled, "relatable."
"Now," the Jersey Devil asked the group, "are you going to help me carry these bags back to my cave, or are you just going to stand there and stare at a twelve foot tall aberration while he tries to gather food for the next day and a half?"
"I was considering it," Mabel mused, but laughed, "but since we stopped fighting, I've reconsidered and would love to see your cave of wonder!" she rushed forward, and started piling bags into her arms, "lead on, Devil of mine!"
As Dipper watched his party slowly gather their own bags of bait into their arms, he realized that in hindsight, if he ever told the story to anyone in the future, he would begin it with "This is the story about how I befriended the devil with kettle cooked potato chips".
Once again, updated! But you guys new that from last week. So smart, you all. :)
Sorry for the delays. Honestly, I was hoping my prediction of about 1 a week would be accurate, but as life has proven, it finds a way... to screw my sense of planning over. I had a ton of responsibilities come up just as I had the nerve to continue this story. So, sorry guys, but the update schedule might be more like once every two weeks.
Another apology due as well. I was trying very hard to get back to every review I received, but I totally was overwhelmed by the total dog-pile of messages this caused. I know I missed a lot of you, but don't worry- I saw what you had to say, and Thank you all for the love. This time I'll do better and actually get back to you all. It just might mean I'll take longer to reply.
It had been a long time since we saw Dipper cast some magic. Good thing he waited until mabel was out of sorts. Then again... Soos may have seen that... Hm. Might just have to be things we learn of down the line? Or immediately? Who knows!?
Oh right, I do.
(A lightning bolt streaks through the window and explodes EZB in one foul swoop.)
(Thor, the Marvel Superhero, flies in, holding his newest weapon of destruction, a large, electrified hair brush) Oh, that wasn't Thanos at all! Blast it all! (He flies through the roof, leaving the charred, exploded remains of EZB behind.)