Okay, I'll try not to ramble on for half the fic, promise!
First of all, I am so, so sorry that this took so long to come out. It's been more than a year, and I'm really disappointed with myself for not getting on this quicker! I felt so bad whenever someone sent me a lovely review for this, asking for more, and I never responded or updated. You guys are really wonderful fans! I do this for you guys I love y'all ;A;
And to that one reviewer who said I wasn't gonna come back to this: HAH. I TOLD YOU I WAS GONNA COME BACK BUT Y'ALL DIDN'T BELIEVE ME
Doesn't matter how long it takes! I will finish this fic!
It really helps that I've finally actually got a really solid idea of how I want this to end. There should only be two more chapters, including the epilogue, so expect a really long chapter next time. It might take a while for me to put it out, but I'll try my best to get it out before next year :'D
Thank you guys, I love you all, and please enjoy the read!
(it's been a while, so my style is a little iffy, and it took some time for me to get back into things. Sorry if this chapter seems really different and a little off-style!)
Fire. That was the only sensation he felt for hours. Or maybe it had been days… Months? Evil didn't have any idea, not anymore. His sense of time was gone, lost in the endless fire.
Darkness and fire – a hot, irritating burning that gnawing into scarred, bleeding flesh. His mind was heavy, too, distracted by a constant flow of odd noise. Evil had encountered many strange languages during the war – General tiger was not picky about who murdered for him – but this murmuring in his mind branded itself into any conscious thought that he could summon; it was like nothing he'd ever encountered before. It rang of dust and earth soiled with rot. Twisted and unnatural.
Every once in a while, with enormous effort, Evil would regain some sort of consciousness for short periods of time. It was on one such occasion that Evil finally opened his eyes. When his brain awoke to try and figure out where he was, he could hardly keep his mind awake, for all the pain that gripped him. His entire mid-body was bound by something strong, which dug into his exposed arms and stomach mercilessly. His shirt was torn into ribbons, and bloodied strips of white hung uselessly on shoulders rubbed raw against the solid rock surface he was bound to. It took several long, painful minutes for Evil to conserve enough strength to lift his head in an attempt to assess his surroundings.
Mostly, there was darkness, and a sense he was in a very large, mostly empty area. Beneath ground, for sure. There came, along with the natural sense, a wave of dread that sunk deeply into Evil's tattered fur, and clamped onto his bones. Beyond this broken darkness, something lay in wait.
Suddenly, Evil saw something he hadn't taken care to notice before - there was a person, or creature, standing before him and slightly to the right. Very large, fluffy white paws, with onyx pads and curved black talons reached out at him, and there was a voice... That deep, chaotic voice, that spoke words of twisted curses and offensive rhymes. Evil struggled against his binds, hating that voice, wanting to tear the creature's throat out to silence it.
"He's still awake?" This voice, disembodied, came from deeper within the belly of oppressive shadows. It was smooth, and sharp, but with a dangerously cold edge that caused Evil to hesitate a moment. There was an assured sense of power and control in that voice... The bear instantly understood that someone who spoke with such confidence and apathy must be delt with carefully.
The first voice, in comparison, sounded very wild as it spoke in a language Evil could comprehend. There was less of the grating; Evil could now detect that her gender was female, and she was a fast speaker, with a broken grasp on idea of speaking clearly. Many of her words tumbled over themselves, breaking apart near the middle or ends of syllables. It was quite a feat, and made it extremely difficult for Evil to completely understand what she said.
"Oi, yeah, 'ey still awake!"
"You've been at him for days - why isn't he under our control yet?" asked the cold voice. There was a threat behind this, but also a playful sort of nudge, an attempt to incite conflict.
The white-pawed female took the bait quickly, hissing angrily - was she a feline then? "Shuddit! He's not like 'em other uns! 'Ey got a strong will an' sense of sel' and he weren't frozen in a block of ice for near thous'nd years!" The female's dialect crumbled further as she spoke. She seemed to be walking away from Evil now, towards her companion. "Ain' no dumb ol' beaver ain't neither who ain't take three seconds to ferget! Easier grow'n 'ey up th'n wipe a sharp 'un clean..."
"Excuses, excuses, my foolish sister," said the other voice, now obviously male, in its purr and tone - Evil suspected it was also a cat of some sort. The war bear struggled again, but carefully this time, assessing possible weakness, or a chance to escape. There was visible exit, and it seemed as if earth itself had wrapped itself over Evil's arms, pulling his torso into the curved surface of a rock wall. His camouflage pants and jacket were dirtied, but not nearly as bad as his shirt, which seemed to have been purposefully shredded to expose his collarbone and stomach.
Another round of angry hisses, and hushed, heated breaths. Evil couldn't hear what the words were exactly, but picked up enough of the statement to make a guess - the female was angry at something for 'disrupting the flow'. It made little sense to Evil, but the male voice scoffed.
"That's hardly a matter which should interfere with your spell. We have enough power to soon release ourselves - why is it you can't ignore the death of a feeble, useless creature without it throwing you off?"
More arguing, and perhaps a violent scuffle or two, for Evil heard a disturbance, with hissing and flesh meeting flesh. Figuring this may be his only chance at attempting to escape, Evil wriggled, his movements calculated to allow him just enough room from the earth which held him. His elbows were nearly free before two shining, evil red eyes caught him by the brow.
"I wouldn't move." The voice was cold, and male, and rumbled with warning. Evil froze and stared, his guard held steadily, but he did not sink back into his current position.
"'Ey awake?" The female came, and Evil's eyes must have adjusted in the dim lighting, for he could see her form much more easily.
She was a breed Evil most certainly was not familiar of, but she looked like a sort of white, fluffy leopard. Her body, like his, and those of the Happy Tree Villagers, had changed to a somewhat-humanoid shape - small waist, large breasts, and large paws and feet. Her eyes were a spiral of all colors - amber, auburn, green, blue, and grey, all swirling together in a disorderly vortex. Her entire being seemed to exude a cold air; her breath, skipping along Evil's bleeding, scarring wounds, smelt of mountains, and felt like the biting winds of a blizzard. A tingle of odd sensation ran up Evil's spine, crouching at the base of his neck. It was a sharp, chaotic sting, and it was painful, but gripped his shoulders and gnawed into his flesh, making him shiver in an effort to control his actions.
"W-what are you...?" Evil asked through clenched teeth. The feline before him laughed. A long, bushy tail curled from behind her, resting at her feet as she grinned. Small black roses blossomed on her otherwise pure white pelt, decorating her face and limbs, back and tail; the light, streaming from a hole in the ceiling, was small, but seemed to stream to her pelt, lacing through her fur and making her almost... glow. She seemed almost beautiful...
Her claws extended to their full length, and curved, black knives sunk into the earth behind him. The leopard's face drew close to his, and frozen breaths blew through sharp, hungry teeth. "Ain't non'ya business, is it?" she hissed. Childish giggles bubbled from her chest. Evil briefly wondered if she was insane.
The male figure emerged from the darkness, to Evil's left, and the war bear knew for sure his species. The tall, sleek figure, with bleeding red eyes, was a black leopard. Against the reflection of blue light, his spots were nearly visible beneath a solid black pelt. The solid color of his body made it difficult to discern any definate emotions, but his eyes seemed almost amused. "Don't kill him yet, sister," the male said, with a wave of his elegant hand. "We shall need his skill and bloodlust for our escape."
An annoyed snort from the female - a mist of snot was blown into Evil's cheek as she growled. "'Ey know that, bastard!"
"Who are you?"
They silenced and stared at Evil. The bear had been in many near-death situations, but none were so bizarre, and none seemed so inescapable. He knew nothing, and the only way he could possibly escape is if he knew something. Perhaps his captors knew this and would say nothing, but there was no sense in not trying.
Finally, the dark one spoke. "We are creatures beyond your comprehension," he stated simply. "We are gods, and higher beings, and it is your duty to serve us."
Evil worked up enough energy to scoff, spitting on the ground in disobedience. "Two bickering kitties like you, gods? Don't make me-"
A white claw clamped against the bear's throat, nearly breaking his airpipe then and there. The snowy white leopard glared at him with wide, swirling green eyes. "SILENCE! We are the fire and earth that consumes you, the wind and water that drown you! We have spread famine and war and disorder and death throughout the world before you were even a thought!"
She made to slice Evil's throat, digging her claws into the flesh that connected his throat and shoulder, but one of her round ears twitched. Her attention almost instantly remove itself from him, and she twisted, standing, to stare into the darkness. "D'ya feel it?" she asked quietly.
"Yes. It's just the porcupine," said the black leopard. Evil's brain froze, and his heart stopped. He couldn't be talking about Flaky, could he? Damn it! He told the girl not to follow him!
But this didn't seem the case, for while the female kept staring, the male turned back to Evil. "We are war, and we are chaos, and that's all you need to know," he explained calmly. "Our reign shall forever rule - our powers stretch far, and our horsemen ride to spread famine and death, war and vermin across this earth. But our spirits..." the leopard gestured to himself, "what you see here, were unjustly banished and imprisoned in this land. But do not fret." That thin, evil smile appeared on his face, shining teeth a blinding white amidst the blackness of his form. "Soon, you and your friends will set us free from the barrier which contains us. And once we devour the souls of your friends, we will have enough power to finally take over."
Dread, and disbelief. Evil almost wanted to laugh in the leopards' faces. What, he was supposed to believe they were gods? Trapped beneath a giant tree in a town full of insane animals? "Tu es loco," he grumbled, but did little else. Already, he had run out of energies. He begrudgingly accepted that escape was futile.
The female twitched, growling. "Send 'ey away! I don't wanna see it! 'Ey keeps flyin' 'round me, wrin'in' its hands! Damn bitch porcupine..."
With a wave of his hand, the dark leopard seemed to calm his female counterpart, though he rolled his eyes. As he strode back into the shadows, far beyond Evil's vision, he stated, "Get back to work. We need him. Crack open his skull and control his will, and we shall be free of this place. The time has come."
Flaky awoke very slowly. It felt as if she were lying on her back, head submerged in tar, and she was trying to pull her head free of the thick, rancid goo. Her subconscious slowly bubble to the surface, and the darkness of her mind lifted.
This was the sensation, awakening from death. You felt as if you were swimming up, slowly bringing your senses back to life. They would come, one by one - usually smell, then sight, then touch. Being birthed back into life.
So when Flaky awoke, she was not surprised to find that she was alone. The light of an early sunset cloaked her room in warm, sparkling drapes, revealing dust motes as they floated and swirled above the porcupine's head. Eyes half open, Flaky breathed in, deeply and slowly. Frantically, she worked to keep her thoughts solid. She dared not move. On the outside, she was calm; a beauty awoken from sleep, given the kiss of another life. Inside, the was the old Flaky, shivering and panicking in terror.
They were coming.
The door to the infirmary burst open suddenly, making Flaky leap from her bed. She tumbled roughly onto the cold and sterile floor, shoulder falling painfully to catch her body's weight. Wide eyed, the porcupine wanted to run, to run and hide, and tears filled her eyelids. A thousand thoughts at what could be attacking mauled her mind, paralyzing her; a thousand scenarios on how she would die in the next few seconds. Would it be decapitation? Would it be due to her treacherous spines once again? She might be stabbed, gouged, thrown out the window...
"Flaky! Oh thank god, Flaky!"
Many voices came to circle Flaky. The porcupine suddenly stilled, closing her eyes. She worked hard to control the stupid, irrational fear that had consumed her, the fear which drew tremors from within her. No. No, this was the old Flaky! The one that was always afraid... Flaky didn't want to be her again... She fought, and slowly, she won.
"Flaky, are you alright? Please say you're okay..."
Flaky opened her eyes to see a green hand, shaking, outstretched before her. Following the arm, she looked into Flippy's honey-golden eyes, wide with anxiety, and lined with worry. A blanket draped over his shoulders, and deep purple bags bruised his cheekbones, but he seemed a little better than when Flaky had last seen him. The porcupine took his hand, and her chest burst with happiness at knowing his touch again. She remembered now what she had done, and guilt filled her body throughout.
"I'm fine," she whispered, her voice still weak. Looking around, Flaky noticed Petunia and Sniffles where there as well. The anteater looked a lot better than before, but not any less sickly. Petunia seemed quite frazzled - her fur stuck up in all places, and she smelt very bad, her air-fresh necklace gone from her neck. The skunk touched Flaky's shoulder worriedly.
"Are you sure?" That was Flippy, who now held Flaky close to him, helping her regain balance in her legs. He rested his chin on the porcupine's forehead, careful of the tiny spines hidden beneath her mane of red hair.
"How long...?" Flaky asked.
"Four days," Sniffles stated quickly. "You... killed yourself three and a half days ago. The sun is setting, so it's been four days." The anteater's face folded into an expression of misery. He folded his large, clawed hands before him, head bowed. "I'm so sorry, Flaky. You were right, I should have listened to you from the start..."
"No, no, it's... it's fine, really," Flaky said dismissively. She hated seeing Sniffles down, after all he'd done for everyone, and felt a little bad for yelling at him all those days ago, but there was something else going on, something much more serious. It demanded attention, and explanation. How... how long ago was that dream? One day, maybe two?
"They're coming," she whispered into Flippy's white shirt, dirty with sweat and old bloodstains.
"Huh?" Flippy sat her down on the edge of the bed, holding her face in his hands. They looked into each other's eyes - one pair curious, the other slowly growing brighter with initiative. "Who's coming, Flaky? I... You were saying things the other day, too, and I..."
Flaky shook her head. The fear was coming back, and she was quickly loosing control of herself. "They're coming... now! Soon! I saw him, Evil, I saw him talking to these... these two creatures. Animals." Flaky closed her eyes, trying to remember. "They called themselves... gods. War, and famine, and... They said they were banished..." Flaky's voice faltered as she gazed at the faces of her friends. They all stared at her in subdued disbelief. They didn't believe her.
The porcupine pushed up from the bed, past Flippy, holding herself. "I saw them! You have to believe me... It wasn't a dream! They're doing something to Evil, and they said..." Memories came back, and Flaky whimpered, shivering. She fell to her knees, burying her face in her hands as she curled inward. They were all going to die, die, die, die.
Flippy shared a look with Petunia and Sniffles. Then, as the green bear took a step forward to try and console his red-furred friend, something happened. The first star appeared outside, and in that moment, a tremor shook beneath their feet. The four Friends stopped, ears collectively twitching at the low rumble that came from below. They were on the third floor of the hospital, but they could still feel it.
Before anyone could say anything, another rumble, more violent this time, knocked the three standing animals off their feet. Flaky looked up wildly, her body shivering with anticipation. Carefully, she navigated between the tremors and made it to a window. The sight outside stilled her breath.
The ground beneath the tree collapsed, and then exploded forth in a storm of earth and rock.
All comments are extremely appreciated.