How to Track Your Dragon
It's been five years since the Pines Twins first spent a summer in the mysterious town of Gravity Falls, and they still have not learned all its secrets. They've searched and learned and questioned, but still there was always something new to find. And Dipper Pines would not be satisfied until he found all of it.
"C'mon, bro," Mabel complained as she followed her brother through the woods, ducking as he shoved thorny vines and branches out of their way, though how he did this with his face buried in that book, she'll never know. "We've been out here for hours."
"No, we're getting close, I can feel it," he replied, finally looking up from the book to give her a grin. "In fact, with it getting dark out, we have an even better chance of finding one! They're nocturnal, remember?"
"Yeah, and now they're gonna be awake and ready for breakfast. And I know they'll go for me first because you're so skinny and pale you look like an unappetizing breadstick."
Before Dipper could come up with a retort for that, his sister had skipped in front of him and gave him a solid smack to the stomach.
"Mabel!" He cringed and rubbed his stomach while she laughed. Then she plucked the book from his hands and began reading it.
"This isn't even one of the author's entries, is it?" she asked, examining the decent but not as detailed drawing of a creature with huge, bat-like wings.
"Well, no, it's one of mine. This is Journal 4, remember?"
"Oh, right. Your compilation journal." She handed it back, and he tucked it under an arm. "How is that coming along?"
"Great. Everything in the other three have been combined into it, and lately I've been writing my own info about stuff. I saw this creature a few nights ago flying over the Mystery Shack, and decided to come find it. Just to make sure it's what I think it is."
"And what do you think it is?"
"A dragon? Now we've found some weird things, but..."
"A wyvern, to be specific," Dipper continued, showing her the drawing. "See? No front legs. It only had wings and two back legs. Well, I guess it might have had front legs, but they had to be held really close to its body for me to not see them. But come on, look at the shape of the head! The tail! It has to be a wyvern!"
Mabel was unsure, but then again, this was Gravity Falls. If there are gnomes and zombies and mermaids and bears with multiple heads, then there could very well be dragons. And dragon-like creatures. She certainly wasn't going to rain on her brother's parade. "Well, okay. But what are you gonna do if we find it? And it's hungry?"
"We run as fast as we can," Dipper said cheerfully.
"What? That's not-"
"I have a can of bear mace in my backpack. It'll blind anything. Oh, and a taser, but I'm not sure how effective that'll be... But hey, don't worry about it. We'll be fine. I just need to get a glimpse of it."
Well, it wasn't the most dangerous thing they've ever gone after. Mabel remembered with revulsion the gryphon of last summer. It had almost taken her arm off before Dipper leapt onto its back and gouged a pocket knife right between its wings. It had decided to leave them alone after that. It was a shame they lost the knife, though.
They began walking again, Dipper looking at the ground and surrounding trees for hint of draconian presence, though Mabel wasn't sure how he knew what to look for. He was going off his own conjectures, and while she trusted his judgment, his research could have been completely false. Not many people have actually met dragons, after all. So there wasn't much accurate data on them.
But Dipper was optimistic. "Okay, now I really think it went this way. See those big claw marks on the trees? It might have perched on them. Unless those are from those giant fruit bats. But then the marks wouldn't go so deep."
Mabel felt her foot land in something soft and sticky and immediately yelped, hopping back.
"What?" Dipper whipped toward her. "Did you see something?"
"No, I stepped in a pile of poo!" she yelled. "Oh, ew!" She began scraping her shoe against the grass, shuddering. At least she had forgone her usual cute flats n' leggings combination in favor of hiking boots and jeans. And to think she had almost chosen to be cute for this trip...
"That sucks. Wait, poop?" Dipper came over to look, and she wrinkled her nose.
"It's not that spectacular, really."
"I can use this for tracking! It's stool, it has a ton of information if you know what to look for!" He knelt down to examine the pile, and Mabel went to find some leaves to clean her boot off with.
"Gross," she commented.
"This is pretty excessive for most woodland creatures," Dipper commented. "I don't think deer leave piles like this. Or even moose. And it's shaped wrong..."
"You spend a lot of time looking at poop, Dipper?" Mabel teased.
He scoffed. "You can't be picky about the clues you look at. Anything can give you answers."
"Uh-huh. So what's this saying?"
He stood. "I don't recognize it. It came from something huge, though. And judging by the smell, something that eats a large quantity of meat. Could be from the wyvern."
"Or a really really REALLY big bear," Mabel suggested.
"Bears actually eat a diet of mostly berries, leaves, and other plant material. Honey if they can get it. They won't turn down a fish, but they aren't strictly meat eaters. Except for polar bears, but those shouldn't be around here."
She shoved him with her shoulder. "Fine, a really big snake, then! Or maybe there's a lion here, ya never know."
"Heh, yeah. I wouldn't be surprised. Though cats have pretty recognizable droppings, and that pile definitely didn't come from any sort of cat. It was like... lumps. Just large, randomly shaped lumps. I could see bones and stuff in there. Made me think of an owl, kinda. So something that flies, I'm thinking."
"It was a giant bird. We've solved the case."
Dipper laughed. "Hey, remember that flock of giant birds we saw two years ago?"
"We saw? You mean that we stumbled right into the nesting grounds of and startled them so they all took flight at the same time and the combined wind from their wings knocked us over?"
"Yeah, those were cool. I still have one of their feathers!"
"I'm so glad they weren't birds of prey."
They laughed, and Mabel gently took the journal from Dipper to flip through. "Hey, look at these guys." She showed him the Leprechaun page. "We haven't met them yet. You think there are any around?"
"Maybe. But then again, Grunkle Stan probably would have driven them off so there wouldn't be competition for gold."
She giggled. "Probably. Maybe if we go far enough away we could find one." She turned the page. "Ooh, fairies! Hey, we met them!"
"Yeah, we did. Back in our first summer, right near the end."
"Oh, they were so pretty. And strangely murderous."
"...Oh yeah. They did try to kill us, didn't they?"
"Yep. But they were pretty bad at it. I mean, they're tiny so they couldn't really hurt us... But gosh, they were mean."
"I don't blame them, humans have pretty much ruined their forests." Dipper caught a low noise and stopped, throwing out his arm to halt Mabel.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Ssh." Dipper stood perfectly still, listening.
After a few moments, he heard the noise again. A soft rustling, the sound of wood bending... it sounded like something moving in the trees. He snuck closer to the source of the noise, tilting his head as he did his best to track it.
Mabel held his hand as she quietly followed, looking around. But the Sun was setting and it was getting more and more difficult to see.
For a few minutes, they crept past trees and bushes, and saw more evidence of the area being disturbed. Broken tree branches littered the ground and many of the trees had grooves scratched into them. Then Dipper stepped on a bone, the resulting crack making both of them jump.
They looked down and saw that he had placed his foot down on top of a deer carcass, breaking through its ribcage. Mabel gasped and backed away, and he pulled his foot out, kicking the bones in disgust. They clattered across the ground, sounding much too loud in the otherwise quiet area, and Dipper realized something. Usually there would be birds chirping, insects buzzing, and other assorted nightly noises. But even those had stopped. And have been gone for quite a while. As if something was scaring them into silence.
He squeezed Mabel's hand and slowly turned to her, and if her wide eyes were anything to go by, she had come to the same realization. But before he could speak, there was an ear-piercing roar, so loud they had to cover their ears.
Leaves rattled, and then a beast launched itself out of a tree, soaring toward them on huge wings, mouth open. Jagged, blood-stained teeth glinted from its maw.
"Look out!" Dipper grabbed Mabel and yanked her back, throwing her in one direction while he leapt in another. The monster's reaching head missed them by inches, but the draft from its wings sent them tumbling to the ground. It flapped and screeched, turning sharply and landing, the ground shaking as it did.
The two scrambled to their feet, Dipper protectively shielding Mabel behind him, staring at the creature. It was a wyvern, all right. Huge and scaly, with big yellow eyes and slitted pupils, a forked tongue, and sharp teeth. Its neck was long, meeting a strong torso, with bat-like wings that possessed wicked claws on their thumbs. These claws were currently being gouged into the ground, and the creature's spiny tail snapped back and forth with agitation.
"Do you think dragons eat humans?" Mabel whispered.
Smoke curled out of the wyvern's mouth, and it sniffed loudly, before opening its mouth wider, hissing.
"I'm gonna take that as a yes." Dipper began backing up slowly, keeping his eyes on the wyvern, but not making eye contact. He didn't want to anger it even more. "Mabel? Can you, very slowly, get the mace out of my backpack?"
She hesitated, but reached up to unzip his bag. The wyvern growled at the noise, taking a few steps toward them. She gasped, clutching Dipper's shoulders, but it didn't come any closer. It seemed intrigued by them. They were different from its usual diet of woodland animals, after all. She felt him tap her with the journal, and took it, stowing it away in the bag. Then she stuck her hand in, feeling around for the mace.
"It's in a can. A cylinder, should be in the main pocket."
"Yeah, I think I got it." She closed her fingers around cool metal and extracted it. Sure enough, it was the mace. "Want me to use it or give it to you?"
"I'll do it." He took it, and she zipped the bag back up.
The wyvern seemed to decide that it wanted to taste them, because it began following them, saliva dripping from its mouth.
"Get back, you overgrown lizard!" Dipper held the mace out at arm's length, made sure it was pointing at the beast, and sprayed it.
When it made contact, the wyvern roared and reared back, closing its eyes tightly. Armored eyelids deflected the rest of the mist, though its face was still coated, forcing it to inhale the chemical as well.
Its wings came back down with a crash, and it shrieked at them, head coming down to rub frantically at the ground, snorting and sneezing.
"I think that just made it angrier," Mabel said.
"It's distracted, run!" Dipper clutched her wrist and ran, desperate to put as much distance as he could between them and the wyvern. In his haste, he dropped the can, but that was fine; he had probably emptied it with that attack.
They could hear the pained bellowing behind them, and then the distinctive sound of it taking off.
"It's chasing us!" Mabel shouted as the sound of cracking and rushing air approached them.
"It won't be able to move as quickly in the air, the trees are too thick here," Dipper replied. "Just keep running!"
Luckily, they had both become excellent at running over the years. If they wanted to, they could probably both be track stars. They had the endurance and speed for it. Being chased by dangerous supernatural creatures did that.
"It doesn't care about the trees, it's plowing right through them," Mabel pointed out.
"We'll be fine!" Dipper was trying to convince himself just as much as her.
Minutes passed, and they could sense it getting closer and closer. They were just barely keeping ahead of it, and they knew it would overtake them soon. And they couldn't keep up this speed forever; they were both growing tired. It hurt to breathe. And to make things worse, the trees were thinning out.
A shadow passed over them, and in the next moment, the wyvern descended upon them. Its legs reached out, sharp talons spread, and it screeched victoriously.
"Mabel, look out!" Dipper turned and tackled her, milliseconds before those claws would have grabbed her. She hit the ground, and he cried out in pain as one talon nicked the side of his head. He fell down next to her, groaning and pressing his palm to his head. It was bleeding.
"Dipper, are you okay?" Mabel asked with concern, sitting up and trying to look at it.
"I'm fine, just... we need to-" Dipper abruptly stopped talking, getting up and pulling Mabel to her feet as the wyvern landed and stalked toward them. Its eyes were open but bloodshot, and it did not look happy. If it had any qualms about eating them before, those were clearly gone. They had attacked it. So now it was going to fight back.
Mabel glanced at Dipper, searching his face for a solution. "What are we going to do now?"
He inhaled deeply, lifted his hand to touch the gash on his head, and sighed. With a defeated expression, he turned to her, and spoke the words she hardly ever heard him say. "I don't know."