Goodness, I'm so sorry this took so long. I went back and edited the conversation between Gideon and Dipper just a little bit so things make more sense, and I also edited the last chapter because I realize I screwed up the timeline pretty spectacularly. If you read the previous chapter anytime before Christmas you might want to go check it out. Up to you. Anyway, enjoy everyone, and happy holidays!
Edit: Also thanks for everyone's kind comments, it really means a lot to me c: Also the anon who wished me well after I mentioned I had a cold, haha.
The door shut behind them with a soft click.
They were standing in a narrow corridor that kinked around a large room to their right. The hard oak floor echoed under their hooves, making Dipper wince at the noise. Tapestries hung from the walls and drapes obscured the windows. Mounted candles flickered, casting dancing shadows.
Dipper had seen the mansion at night only once before, at that grand party four years ago. Just thinking about the ghost with the huge axe and flaming beard was enough to make Dipper shiver, the echoing, hateful voice ringing in his ears. In the blanket of night the manor took on an entirely different feel. While no less grand, the hard oak felt older, the tapestries worn, and the halls ancient. During the day it felt empty for a mere family of three and its soulless servants to inhabit it, but at night it was a different story. The essence of lives long past were woven into the wood fibers, an echo of a different time pervaded throughout the halls. At night the mansion came alive with the sacrifices it was built upon, the records of treacheries it held.
In other words, it felt...haunted.
Glancing up and down the corridor, Pacifica unzipped her purse and reached inside. She produced a handful of cloth scraps, shoving them toward Dipper.
"Here, tie these around your hooves. Muffle the noise a bit," she whispered, already getting to work on her own.
Dipper nodded and kneeled down, doing as she asked. The cloth helped significantly to lessen the sharp clack that resounded whenever one of them put a foot down and, satisfied, Pacifica beckoned Dipper to follow her.
They made their way down the hall quietly, looking around with wide eyes. Whenever they got to a corner where the corridor branched off, Pacifica would press herself flat against the wall and peek around it warily. Dipper followed her example, watching their backs. Once they had heard footsteps headed their way from around a corner ahead of them and the two had backed up in alarm, shrinking into the shadows. Thankfully the servant had turned the corner away from them, entering a room without looking their way. Pacifica, letting out a shaky breath, once again took the lead.
Soon they reached the back doors that led out from the heart of the mansion and into the enclosed garden. The grand doors were overgrown with ivy from the outside, and inside were flanked by potted plants. Across from the door behind them was one of the grand rooms the hallway had wound around. A large arch was the only thing standing between it and the door to the garden, leaving them exposed if they wanted to go outside. Peeking into the large open room, Pacifica made sure it was devoid of people before slipping outside, Dipper close behind.
They made their way across the stretch of green, surrounded by hedges and peacocks. The cool night air was a welcome relief from the stuffy interior. Dipper glanced around, taking in the decorative area. It looked just the same as it had when he and Pacifica were running through it for their lives, desperately looking for a way to escape the lumberjack spirit.
Soon they entered the corridor with the secret room, pushing through the ruined painting and slipping inside. Dust billowed around them in the sudden motion. The room was much colder than the rest of the manor, and any furniture was covered in white sheets, a thick layer of dust blanketing them. Stacks of books and boxes littered the floor, evidence of Dipper and Pacifica's investigating. The old, faded paintings still leaned against one wall, tall floor mirrors haphazardly strewn around them. The room was dark, but enough light seeped in from the hall that neither needed to use their flashlight. Musty air choked the room, cobwebs decorated the walls and ceiling.
Pacifica let out a pent-up breath, her tail flicking nervously. She seemed very apprehensive about this act of rebellion, which made Dipper wonder just how much worse her father's mood had gotten as a result of the curse.
She reached into her jacket and brought out the thin stack of papers she'd shown him earlier. Rifling through it, she selected one and held it out to Dipper. "I found this one under the floorboards here," she said, moving to a spot in the far left corner of the room. "Go ahead and take a look while I see if there's anything else here."
The piece of paper was old and worn, but matched the scrap of journal paper he'd read earlier by the lake. While Dipper pored over its contents, Pacifica checked for any other loose floorboards.
The journal entry told of the time Clinton was left to his own devices while the manor was being built, written in an excitable, flowing hand:
'Excellent! With my brother and his irksome wife out of the way, I now have full run of the construction. The builders have dropped everything to build the secret basement and cover it up before they return, just as I asked. The secret passage from the basement to my room is also under construction, complete with a lock mechanism that only I know the code to. Perfect...with this I'll never have to share my treasure again. Not only that, but he will be pleased to see...' regrettably, the rest had been charred black and ruined.
Dipper threw his hands into the air. "What's with vital information being ruined all the time?! Is it too much to ask for one little thing to go right for once?" He exclaimed, proceeding to mutter angrily under his breath. He looked up at Pacifica. She'd taken to staring at him with a slightly amused expression. Dipper felt his face go red. There he went, getting carried away again. Coughing awkwardly, he made his way over to where she was standing. "So, find anything?"
"I have, actually, but I need your help. I was about to call you over before you had your little, um, episode." She gestured to a section of the wall.
It looked just like the rest of the room, with the wooden boards curling slightly out of old age and bleached of colour. When Dipper looked closer, he noticed little hinges with flaking paint protruding from between two boards. A few panels to the right he saw a strip of metal running down to the floor, wedged into the wood and covered in the same peeling paint. He followed it down to where it veered off to the right, only for the rest to be obscured by an enormous dresser.
Pacifica rounded the dresser and gripped the other end. "You push, I'll pull."
Dipper nodded and braced himself against it, counting to three before giving a mighty heave. With a groan, it moved grudgingly. All seemed to be going well until, for the last couple inches, it produced an ungodly shriek as its feet ground against the uneven floor. Halting at once, Dipper flattened his ears, cringing. Pacifica did likewise, paling considerably.
"Shoot," she muttered. "Hopefully no one heard that."
Dipper glanced behind him and saw that the rest of the metal strip had been uncovered, so he beckoned Pacifica over.
The strip led to a long rectangular plate of metal nailed into the wood. Set in the middle was a row of eight rotating wheels, similar to a number lock, but with ten random letters stamped into each face rather than numbers.
Dipper scratched his head and folded his legs beneath him as he bent to take a closer look. The letters of each wheel were completely random, with no regard to alphabetical order whatsoever.
"Fantastic," Dipper muttered. "How are we gonna get the code?" He glanced at Pacifica.
She shrugged. "Don't look at me! You're supposed to be the smart one."
"What, nothing in those documents said anything about a password?" He asked, raising an eyebrow.
She sighed, shifting her stance impatiently. "Most of them were from before the manor was built. I never saw anything about a code or even about the secret room except for that page there," she said, pointing at the scrap of paper still clutched in Dipper's hand.
He scanned over the page again, looking for any clues he might have missed. He began to enter a few different possibilities, only to halt when the wheels lacked the right letters. After a few guesses he leaned back, ruffling a hand through his hair, bumping his fingers into antlers.
"Nothing." Uttering a curse, he stared at the evil thing angrily. They were so close! How could they be stopped by a stupid lock set up by a treasure hunting weirdo?
A thought occurred to him. "I don't suppose the door was left unlocked?" He asked hopefully.
Pacifica walked over to the door, wedging her fingers between the boards and pulling. "Nope. We're on our own here."
Dipper sighed. "Figures." Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes.
Think. He wracked his brain, drawing up information he knew about Clinton and discarding anything he deemed unimportant. Eight letters. The man clearly didn't get along very well with his family, so that ruled out anything to do with them. He was very independent and didn't seem to have had a significant other, at least not one that he'd mentioned in his entries. The life of a rogue treasure hunter was very exciting, and no doubt he'd loved every moment of it. Heck, he'd even disappear for years at a time on journeys, and the excitement shown in his record of stolen items indicated just how memorable each one was. So, something to do with his past work? Possibly. Problem was, Dipper knew very few of these journeys, having only read a couple of the ones Pacifica had given him. Biting his lip, he berated himself for not delving deeper and reading the other entries. He turned over fact after fact in his mind, frustrated with the precious little he knew about the man.
Just as he was about to give up, something clicked. Eight letters. A past journey. Presumably a memorable experience, going by the blurb he wrote. The nail-biting excitement that had seeped into the paper as the words flowed from the fountain pen. Something that had seemed odd and unimportant at the time now seemed the best candidate for the job.
Dipper opened his eyes and, with shaking fingers, input the code.
Beatrice the savage barmaid from Transylvania.
There was a whirring sound and several clicks as bits of metal fell into place behind the wood. Dipper rose to his hooves and stood by Pacifica as she stared at the door in amazement. It swung open, revealing a narrow stone passageway that descended into complete darkness.
She glanced at Dipper in awe. "How did you figure it out?"
Dipper shrugged, a half smile on his face. "I'm the smart one, remember?"
Pacifica smirked, then gestured at the passageway. "After you."
Dipper switched on his flashlight and the two descended into darkness, unaware of the glinting red eyes that watched from the shadows.
Mabel squinted up at the moon. It gazed back at her silently. She was floating in the lake, waiting by the entrance of the canal. She'd told Candy and Grenda to meet her there but they had yet to show. A cool breeze brushed the water's surface, creating tiny ripples that distorted the moon's reflection. The stars winked down at her from their positions in the inky black sky, wisps of cloud floating gently. Mabel shivered and sank further into the water, up to her chin. She glanced around nervously. The trees surrounding the lake were dark and uninviting, giving the impression that any sort of unspeakable horror could be lurking within them.
A little splish sound drew her attention back to the canal. She watched the tunnel expectantly, picking up a ripple coming from its depths. When nothing showed she frowned, dunking her head underwater to get a different perspective. She came nose to nose with a grinning, scaly green face. Shrieking, Mabel flew backward, splashing in terror. Grenda burst out of the water, laughing and slapping the surface with glee. Candy materialized behind her, black-rimmed eyes blinking.
Mabel let out a breath, shock melting into annoyance then quickly to happiness. "Grenda! You scared me!" She said, splashing her.
Grenda continued giggling, hugging her stomach, evidently in a happy sort of pain. "I know! That was the whole point! I'll never forget the look on your face!" She doubled over laughing once again, submerging her head so that only bubbles indicated her mirth.
Candy adjusted her water-speckled glasses. "It's moments like these that make me wish I had taken a photo...one that I may have used as blackmail." She smiled sweetly at her.
Mabel giggled. "Oh, cut it out you two," she said as Grenda finally resurfaced, breathing heavily with a toothy grin on her face.
"So what did you call us here for, Mabel?" Candy asked.
"Yeah, we were about to play an intense game of knuckles!" Grenda said, clenching her fist.
Candy gulped, looking at Mabel with wide eyes. Clearly she was glad to have gotten away from that.
Mabel grinned. "Oh, you girls won't believe this! So, Dipper found out about this amazing thing..." She proceeded to fill them in on the details of the mermaid bracelet and showed them Dipper's 'expertly drawn' map. She pointed to the spot that indicated the underwater cave, explaining that the treasure was hidden within it.
"There's just one problem," Mabel said, energy fading slightly. "When we were swimming here a week ago, I saw this monster kind of...thing. At the bottom of the lake, near where we need to go. It was green, and scaly, and terrifying." She shivered.
Grenda and Candy were quiet for a moment. Then Grenda started chuckling unexpectedly. "Gee, sorry Mabel, I didn't mean to scare you so much."
Mabel sighed, exasperated. "No, Grenda, I didn't mean you! You're one of my besties, I'd never mistake you for a monster. No, I saw it near Scuttlebutt Island, right by the waterfall. Problem is, the cave is right around there too."
Candy adjusted her glasses, frowning. "Can't we just rent a boat to get there?"
Mabel glanced over her shoulder at the rental joint. "Not since the owner was transformed into a bottom feeder and disappeared into the lake, I'm afraid."
The tiny hut was empty and desolate, the sign hanging from a single nail, swinging in the gentle breeze with shrill little creaks. Even if they wanted to 'borrow' a boat without permission, they wouldn't be able to get it up and running by themselves. Besides, she remembered with a shudder, the boat they'd used last time did little to withstand the onslaught of a furious sea monster.
She turned back toward them, a determined expression graced her face. "Don't worry girls, I've got a plan."
The plan was simple. Well, what Mabel considered a plan was really a hare-brained and slightly delusional scheme that also happened to be morbidly dangerous. Thankfully Grenda and Candy, being the extraordinarily supportive friends they were, went through with it anyway. It was classic, the beauty of its straightforwardness making it incredibly easy to follow and requiring very little explanation. Once the three had gone over it a couple times, they got to work. While boats were currently out of the question, easing their way into the hut and grabbing heaps of bait, on the other hand, was not.
They swam quietly, drifting through the still waters with hardly a ripple. Mabel tugged along a cooler behind her, its buoyancy weighed down by the contents.
As they swam further and further into the lake, a white fog began to creep up on them, drifting across the water's surface. The scene looked like something out of a horror movie: a still lake with a full moon shining down; a foggy night with dark spruce trees cutting a jagged line against the night sky, encircling the water's edge. Knowing Gravity Falls anything could have been lurking in the forest, from werewolves to fairies, and those stories became much easier to believe on a night like this. It was outright creepy and Mabel, as brave as she was, probably would have turned tail and ran (swam?) if it weren't for her two friends pressing close on either side.
Soon Scuttlebutt Island rose from the fog before them, looming and pitch dark. Its craggy shores were cold and uninviting, but thankfully they had no need to go there.
Once Mabel was sure they'd gotten close enough, she halted, gesturing for her friends to do the same. She dunked her head under the water, peering through the clear depths. Sure enough, there was the monster, circling the island in some kind of patrol. Its beady green eyes glowed through the darkness, its massive bulk casting rolling waves through the water that stirred the silt and flattened the plants.
She gulped, surfacing. They couldn't afford to mess up. This whole idea was absolutely ludicrous, but she was sick of being useless, of being confined to a tank. She had to show everyone (and more importantly, herself) that she could accomplish something in her condition, even if it was as challenging and dangerous as this. For her efforts she would be awarded something that would allow her to do even more- for the town, for Grunkle Stan, and most of all, for Dipper. Mabel needed this item, and she needed her mobility. Not just for herself but for everyone she could help with it. She wouldn't allow herself to feel useless again.
Mabel returned her attention to the matter at hand, facing her friends. "All right, girls," she whispered, beckoning them closer. "This is the place. Remember the plan: you guys get ready to swim past and I'll distract 'em with this." She gestured to the cooler of chum. As the fastest swimmer of the three, she would be the one to open the cooler and push it towards the monster, then swim away quickly before it finished its meal. The three would round the island and make it to the cave, hopefully with all limbs still attached.
The two nodded, faces set in determination. They swam off to the side, waiting for the signal.
Mabel took a deep breath. This was insane. Absolutely, thoroughly nuts. But, she thought giddily, very exciting.
As the monster once again rounded the island, heading her way, she pushed the cooler toward it. It bobbed along gently, its course set to intercept the monster's path. It was time to set the plan in motion.
Grr I wanted to get so much more done in this chapter but it just got too long. The next one will be pretty action-packed, I can assure you. Thanks for reading :)