Journey to the Past
"Hey Quinn, you got a minute?" Daria asked as she knocked on the door.
A few days had already passed. So far, nobody had discovered Kenneth's body whereas Brittany's body seemed to have vanished without a trace.
Daria's family had also taken up Tom's offer and relocated to one of their vacant rental properties. Luckily, Tom's family had agreed them to stay up to a month, free of charge. So far, there had been no more sightings of the Death Apostles. At that point, Daria could only assume that they had no idea where her family was hiding.
Both Helen and Jake had also excused themselves from work, citing the need for a long overdue vacation without outright telling their employers where they were going.
"C-Come in," Quinn finally answered.
"Are you okay?" Daria looked at her sister.
Quinn was sitting on a chair, staring out the window blankly.
"Take a guess," Quinn replied numbly.
"Not good is my guess," Daria took a chair and sat down next to her sister.
"Mmmhmm," Quinn nodded, staring into space.
"Believe me, I've been there," Daria tried her best to relate to Quinn. "During my final few days at college, I watched the man I love die."
"Yeah, but your boyfriend didn't turn out to be a raving psycho," Quinn said bitterly.
"You're right," Daria conceded. "Maybe not the best comparison to make…"
"All this time, I thought Kenneth was going to be the one," Quinn confessed.
"And he turned out to be a killer and a cult leader," Daria pointed out. "We all make mistakes."
"Yeah, but my mistake got my whole family into this mess," Quinn sighed.
"Well, let's share the blame," Daria put her hand on Quinn's shoulder. "When I was in Raft, I also got involved with these people. We both got sucked in dumpster fires that became difficult to put out."
"Daria?" asked Quinn.
"Think things will go back to normal after this?"
"Honestly? I don't think there will be a normal to go back to…"
"Think we'll have to move again?" asked Quinn.
"Dunno," Daria paused. "Wouldn't surprise me. We did it once, we can do it again."
"I wish I could get a chance to at least talk to the Fashion Club," Quinn admitted.
"It's too much of a liability right now," Daria told her. "Besides, you can talk to me. I'll be willing to listen."
"You'd do that?" Quinn asked with a hint of skepticism.
"Well, I do regret that a lot of our childhood was mostly bickering," confessed Daria. "Instead of living in my own little world, I really should have been there for you more back when we were kids… and now."
"Daria, you're a unique person in your own way that I… don't mind calling a sister at this point," Quinn told her. "Do me a favor and don't ever regret your past and the person it made you today."
"Thanks Quinn," Daria smiled.
"So, you really plan on going through with it?" Jane asked.
She, Kevin, Tom, and Daria were sitting in the Sloane residence.
"Kenneth said that Highland was where the final prophecy would be fulfilled," Daria mentioned. "And I'm betting it involves two delinquents I knew back in the day."
"Just so you know, I won't be able to head out with you," Jane told her. "I still have my parents and Trent to look out for and I can't risk them getting attacked somehow by that cult."
"Understood," Daria acknowledged. "Family's important. Do what you need to do, Jane."
"So you been stocking up for the trip?" asked Kevin.
"I spent all of yesterday buying food, arrows, and other equipment in a neighboring town," Daria nodded. "Didn't want to risk being spotted in public by any of those cultists in Lawndale."
"Daria," Tom said to her. "Just so you know, I'm willing to come with you on this trip."
"Thanks Tom, but I can't ask you to stick your neck out for me more than you already have," Daria replied.
"No, this is what I feel like I have to do," Tom insisted. "Besides, if you're going to be making a long road trip, it's best to let your parents know you're in good company."
"Well, you do raise a good point," Daria admitted.
"I'm also willing to tag along, Daria," Kevin said to her. "After everything that happened, you really helped lift me out of my funk. I owe you one."
"Thanks Kevin," Daria said to the two guys. "I won't ask you to put your own lives on hold for me so if you really want to volunteer to do this, then it means a lot to me."
"Well, all that remains is coming up with a credible story for why you want to go back to Highland," Jane took a drink of water.
"I'll think of something," Daria smirked. "If we're lucky, we'll make it back just in time for the holidays."
"Holidays?" Tom and Kevin looked at each other and then Daria in confusion.
"Umm, forget I said that," Daria shook her head, reminding herself yet again that the holidays had ceased to exist.
"For the last time Daria, I said no!" Helen crossed her arms.
"Look mom," Daria argued. "All that's happened recently has convinced me that I need to get some time to myself and figure things out."
"Given everything that's happened, you need to be staying indoors," Helen reminded Daria.
Before Daria could respond back, a knock was heard at the door.
Helen walked over and opened up.
"Hi, Mrs. Morgendorffer," Tom waved. "May I come in?"
"I don't see why not," Helen finally put on her polite face.
"Hey Daria," Tom put his arms around his ex-girlfriend much to Helen's surprise.
"Tom," Daria nuzzled her face against his.
"I know things have been rough lately," Tom said. "But Daria really needs some time to process everything and work out some inner demons. Now that we're together again after everything that's happened, Daria and I talked and agreed that we need a Sabbatical together."
"You two… are together again?" Helen looked on in surprise.
"Yeah, after what happened with you guys and Quinn, Tom and I talked things over," Daria told her mom. "We decided that the two of us were better together than apart."
"Well, I see," Helen scratched her head. "I'm glad to see that you two are happy together again."
"With your permission, Daria and I just need some time on the open road to gather our thoughts and talk about what the future may bring," Tom hugged Daria tightly. "We were thinking of making a trip back to her old hometown in Highland. After all, it's just a small backwater town, hardly important to anyone. Those cultists always congregate around the bigger cities and bigger towns."
Helen looked at Tom and Daria holding together in a seemingly loving embrace. Finally, her expression softened.
"You know, after everything that's happened," Helen finally conceded. "I suppose you do need some time to really find yourself. And I'm happy a good guy like Tom will be there to help you."
"I'll be sure to take care of your daughter," Tom assured Helen.
Daria and Tom then exchanged knowing looks. In all likelihood, it was far more likely that Daria would be the one protecting him.
Two days later.
"So you got everything you need?" asked Jane.
She and Daria were sitting together in the Lane household's living room.
"Everything's ready," confirmed Daria. "I'll leave in three hours."
"So do you know what you're gonna do when you get there?" asked Jane.
"Honestly, I have no idea," Daria told her friend. "Except find Beavis and Butt-head, that is."
"Didn't you tell me one of them almost killed your interest in men back in the day?" asked Jane.
"Butt-head did back when I was younger," confirmed Daria. "But if my experience with Butt-head wasn't enough to totally destroy my interest in men, nothing can."
"Just what kind of name is Butt-head?" Jane looked aghast.
"His legal name," Daria said in her characteristic monotone.
"So, like, Head is actually his surname?" Jane winced.
"It is what it is," Daria shrugged.
"At least the second guy has a name that sounds less embarrassing," Jane shook her head.
"Don't let the name fool you," Daria told her. "Beavis was probably about five IQ points lower than Butt-head… and Butt-head's IQ was already in the single digits."
"So you find the two and then what?"
"Hopefully prevent them from driving somebody important mad," Daria explained. "Though it's hard seeing anyone from Highland as having a royal lineage."
Daria and Jane looked up. It was Trent. He had just walked into the house with his guitar.
"Trent," Daria looked up. "Surprise to see you here…"
"The band's back in town for a while," Trent replied. "I'm gonna catch some R&R before heading out again."
"Oh, by the way, is it okay if Daria keeps some of your ski masks for a while?" asked Jane.
"Sure, why not?" Trent gave the okay. "I won't be going back to Colorado for a while."
"Thanks Trent," Daria replied graciously.
"So," Trent sat down at the sofa next to Jane. "What's been going on with you, Daria?"
"I… think I'll leave you two alone for the moment," Jane got up, giving a smile to Daria.
Now that the two of them were finally alone, Daria broke the silence.
"A lot's happened," confessed Daria. "I don't even know where to begin."
"I got time," Trent leaned back.
"Well, college turned out to be a bust," Daria admitted. "Got mixed up with some very dangerous people there. I also had to drop out eventually."
"That's rough," Trent nodded. "Something tells me that's not why you sound so down though."
"I… well, I fell for a guy there," Daria said sadly. "He… died, saving me from those dangerous people."
Trent looked down. "Sorry to hear that, Daria."
"Now I have to take a journey back to my old hometown," continued Daria. "I have something important I have to do back there. You could say the fate of the world rests on my shoulders."
"Well, whatever it is you want to do," Trent reminded her. "I just want you to know that I believe in you. Life throws us a lot of curveballs we may not expect or want, but you've shown that you can handle all of them."
"Thank you Trent," Daria smiled. "That means a lot to me."
"Anytime," Trent replied.
"Well, I'd better go say goodbye to Jane," Daria got up. "Thanks for the talk."
"Take care Daria," Trent acknowledged.
Daria smiled. Though her crush on Trent was long gone, she still appreciated his words of encouragement and saw him as being a decent guy above all.
She walked over to Jane who was outside the house.
"Well Jane, wish me luck," Daria said to her friend.
"You got this, Daria," Jane told her. "If you could kill a god, you can stop Armageddon."
"Thanks Jane, good luck holding down the fort in Lawndale," Daria smiled.
With that, Daria hugged Jane who hugged her back tenderly.
"Got everything ready?" asked Tom.
"Just about," Daria put her final bag into the trunk of Tom's car.
"Stay safe out there, kiddo," Jake told her.
On the sidewalk was Daria's family, there to say goodbye to her.
"I will," promised Daria. "I have Tom with me."
"Remember the lessons I taught you," Aunt Amy told her.
"Rest assured," Daria smiled.
Before Daria knew it, there was somebody running towards them.
"Hey Daria!" Kevin called out.
"Hello," Amy looked sideways at Kevin. "What do we have here?"
After Kevin stopped panting, he was able to speak.
"Sorry I'm late," said Kevin. "Hey Daria's family! I'm also tagging along. Just think of me as being an extra chap-chapperstone…"
"Chaperone?" Daria discerned.
"Yeah, that's it!" Kevin realized.
"Well, uh," Tom scratched his head. "I can vouch for the guy."
"Daria, you really helped me out when I was at my lowest," Kevin told her. "So I figured I'd do whatever I can to help you out too. I'll follow you to the end of the line."
In spite of her blank expression, there was a part of Daria that was touched by what Kevin had said. She had no idea her words were able to help him so.
She looked at her family.
"Can't hurt," she told them. "Safety in numbers and all."
Helen and Jake looked at each other before nodding in approval.
"We're counting on you two to keep Daria safe," Helen told them approvingly.
"Be my pleasure," Tom agreed.
Her family came in to hug her one by one.
"Stay safe Daria," Helen told her.
"Yeah, and keep in touch," Jake said to his daughter.
"Thanks mom, dad," Daria embraced them. "Quinn, can I count on you to hold the fort?"
"You got it, sis," Quinn replied confidently.
"Good girl," Daria ruffled Quinn's hair, happy that Quinn was moving past the traumatic event in the woods with Kenneth.
Aunt Amy was the last one who went up to Daria when the rest of the family went inside.
"You ready for this?" she asked.
"As ready as I'll ever be," admitted Daria. "Plan's simple enough. Prevent two dunderheads from driving a royal insane. Sounds easy… right?"
"Deceptively so," Amy nodded.
"Can you think of anyone in that town who has royal blood?" asked Tom.
"Honestly, no," Daria remained skeptical. "And even if some royal prince were to visit the US, Highland's dead last on the list of American cities he'd visit."
"Keep in contact with me," Amy told Daria. "Let me know how you're doing."
"Right," Daria acknowledged.
"Good luck Daria," Amy hugged her niece.
Over nine hours had passed during the drive and the three young adults were steadily growing more tired. Trying to drive all the way from the Mid-Atlantic to Texas was indeed a long and daunting task.
"Well, I don't know about you guys, but I think it's time we found a hotel," Tom told the two.
"Sounds good to me," Daria agreed.
Tom's car veered right at the closest exit to a local hotel and parked there.
"Hang on," Tom looked at his cell phone app. "With this, I can easily get two rooms for us at discount price with the kind of insurance I have."
"Cool, you and Daria have a good night together," Kevin yawned.
"Um, actually, the two of us will be sharing a room, Kevin," Tom replied.
"Wait, what?" Kevin looked confused. "I saw you and Daria holding hands earlier today. Aren't you guys, like, a couple again?"
"Actually, Tom and I were just acting," Daria told him. "I had to convince my parents to let me take this trip somehow."
"And most likely, their hearts would be more at ease if they saw that Daria had a guy to travel with her and protect her," Tom confirmed. "Though to be honest, I'm probably going to be the one who needs protecting…"
"Oh, so you guys never got back together," Kevin said, with something that sounded like relief in his voice.
"Nope, just friendly exes on amicable terms," Tom replied casually.
"That would be correct," Daria agreed.
"Alright, I got everything arranged," Tom put his cell phone back in his pocket. "Let's go inside now."
The next day.
The next morning came without much disturbance. Luckily for everybody at the hotel, they were able to get a good night's sleep.
The two of them were also linked through two rooms. Kevin and Tom shared one for the night, whereas Daria also had the room on the other side.
Tom knocked on the door where Daria's room was.
"Hey Daria, you awake?" asked Tom.
"Wide awake," Daria's sarcastic answer came from the other side.
"Kevin and I are going to head out for a morning walk," Tom told her. "You gonna be alright?"
"Don't worry, I'll manage," Daria reassured her ex.
"Okay, be back soon," Tom told her.
In the distance, Daria could hear the sound of the door next door closing as Tom and Kevin went out for their walk.
She sat down, not knowing what her next plan of action was. Just how would she greet Beavis and Butt-head if she saw them again? Exactly what was in store for her in Highland anyways?
Sighing, Daria got up and went to the shower. She undressed and got in, allowing the warm water to run down her back.
After about twenty minutes of deep thought had passed, she emerged once more and dried off. After she got dressed again, Daria went over to gather her backpack and put everything in order.
Suddenly, she heard the creeking of footsteps walking towards her door. Normally, she would have dismissed such a noise as the footsteps of room service maids coming to check up on her.
However, the fact that she didn't hear any official announcement of room service began to worry her. Also, it didn't help matters that whoever was trying to open her door did so without knocking and began picking at Daria's room with some kind of lock.
Quickly, Daria picked up her crossbow and hid to the side of the room that was concealed from the door's view.
Finally, the door opened up.
"Finally!" a male voice emerged. "Now to take care of Daria!"
The voice sounded familiar and Daria had a pretty good idea who it was.
She stood still from the other side of the wall, hiding behind the short hall that led to her main hotel room.
Finally, when the stranger got closer, Daria stuck her foot out, causing the figure to trip.
"Aaaahhh!" the stranger fell down face-first.
Daria pointed her crossbow at the intruder.
"I had a feeling it was you," she told him.
"Ow, my nose…" Graham complained.
"Get up," she told him.
Graham saw the bow pointing at him and immediately complied.
"Take a seat," Daria gestured towards the seat next to the desk.
Graham did as he was told, with Daria pointing a crossbow right at him.
"Start talking," Daria stared at him. "How did you find us?"
"I've… been trailing you at a safe distance from behind all this time," Graham admitted. "I was summoned to go to Highland but on the way, I saw you guys at your first gas station stop. After you guys left the car to use the restroom, I snuck in and planted a tracker under your car."
"Highland, huh?" Daria shook her head. "Let me guess… all hands on deck to fulfill the final prophecy?"
"Yes," Graham nodded. "Most of our key members are being summoned to that place to oversee the final phase of the master's resurrection."
"So why did you join the Death Apostles?" Daria asked out of curiosity. "I only met you once in the past but you struck me more as a trust fund brat than a murderous cultist."
"I… fell out of good repute during high school," admitted Graham. "During my junior year of high school, I started doing drugs. My grades plummeted and suddenly, I was in real danger of not being accepted into the kind of college that my family had expected me to go to. Before long, my GPA was in the mud."
"I'm sure there's an after-school special to be learned somewhere in all this," Daria rolled her eyes.
"I met Eric Ravencroft sometime during my senior year when I was at my lowest," Graham confessed. "He got me into Raft and promised he would restore my good standing with my family and my peers again. All I had to do was swear a covenant with him and his father Angra Mainyu."
"So in return, you joined a murder cult and helped that man in the owl mask murder girls on the college campus, right?"
"I never… well, okay," Graham came clean finally. "Maybe I had a hand in picking out some of the girls for High Priest Moloch to go after…"
"Who is he?" demanded Daria.
"I… I can't reveal that!" Graham insisted.
"Why not?!" Daria pointed her crossbow directly at Graham's head.
"Because!" Graham's eyes widened fear. "Do you know the things he'll do to me if I betray him?! I'd rather take an arrow to the head right now!"
There was a spark of real fear in Graham's voice which convinced Daria that he was telling the truth. There was no point to interrogating Graham as to the owl-man's identity.
"Listen up," Daria told Graham, pointing the tip of her crossbow's arrow into Graham's neck until it drew blood. "Your high priest murdered who knows how many girls at Raft… what's more, he tried to KILL my parents! I'm not going to rest, I'm not going to stop… until I pin that mask to his face permanently with multiple arrows. Do you understand?"
"Yes!" Graham gulped weakly.
Daria finally stepped away from Graham.
"What are you going to do with me?" asked Graham.
At that moment, a familiar voice called out her name.
"Daria?" Tom's voice came from outside. "We saw that your door was open. Kevin and I are done with our walk. Are you okay?"
"I am," Daria called out. "Come on in."
Both Tom and Kevin entered into the room and to their surprise, they saw Graham being held captive by Daria with a crossbow in her hand.
"Dare I ask what happened?" Tom grimaced.
"Alright guys, help me tie him up," Daria told the two.
Tom and Kevin looked at each other as if they were seriously questioning what kind of adventure they had gotten themselves into.
"Mmmmph!" Graham echoed as his mouth was gagged with gray duct tape, along with the rest of his body to the chair.
"Don't worry," Daria assured him. "The cleaning maid should find you in about an hour or so."
Graham continued to struggle impotently as Daria headed out the door and left with Kevin and Tom. After checking out, they entered into the car. Daria, however, remained outside for a bit longer.
"Something wrong?" asked Tom as he noticed Daria looking underneath all sides of his car.
"This is how that guy found us," Daria finally removed a tracer from Tom's car's back bumper. "He saw us at our first stop and waited until we went inside to put it on."
Daria dropped the tracer onto the ground and stomped on it.
"Okay, now it's safe to go," Daria entered the car with the two.
"Was he one of them?" asked Tom, taking the wheel.
"Oh yeah," answered Daria.
"He didn't look all that scary for some cult killer," Kevin pointed out honestly.
"Honestly, when you're running a religious organization that appeals to the dregs and genetic dead ends of society, you get guys like Graham who just want to be one of the cool kids," Daria pointed out.
"Graham, huh?" Tom finally got on the highway. "Name sounds too cuddly to be a cultist."
"Hey, when you're a fringe religion, you take what you can get," Daria reiterated with her trademark wit.
After several more hours, Tom's car finally pulled into Highland.
The town was exactly as she remembered, run-down and economically stagnant. Whether or not there was still mercury in the drinking water remained to be seen.
"Wow," Tom looked around at the place. "I'm feeling something right now and I can't quite put my finger on it."
"Culture shock?" Daria suggested.
"That's it," Tom confirmed. "I come from the eastern part of the United States from a family that's considered old money. And I've never seen a place like this before."
"Prepare to have your mind blown then," Daria replied.
"So you grew up here?" Kevin looked all around.
"You could say that," Daria answered. "Who knows how much my growth would have been stunted had I remained here."
"So where do you want to go?" Tom looked around.
"First things first," Daria replied. "Highland High School."
"Uh, wouldn't those two childhood frie—err, acquaintances have graduated by now?" Tom asked.
"Knowing Beavis and Butt-head, they're probably repeating a grade," Daria predicted with precise accuracy.