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LSS: The Fools' Quest



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Wed May 11, 2022 11:29 pm
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Shady says...



Well, now the cat was out of the bag, wasn't it? Rain didn't have any idea whatsoever what they were supposed to do now. But Fish kept sending her urgent gazes as if she was supposed to come up with some way to save all this, even though she had zero ideas.

But, well, if one of them was going to fix it, it was going to be her. And they both knew it. Fish basically had the emotional intelligence of a potato. A well-meaning potato. But a potato all the same.

She bit her lip, trying to think of what she could even say. It was clear that Lake was agitated even though she was trying to pretend that she wasn't. And. Well. That wasn't going to improve anything.

Quite the opposite, actually.

Tension would get to Rain eventually, and no one wanted that. And who even knew what Lake's new magic was.

No. It was best to soothe tempers now before they got out of control.

"... Well... I think that we're going to be okay," she said after a moment. "We, uh, got a good start with the book, right? And now we can, uh, I mean -- power of friendship, amirite?"

Fish stared at her with a, 'really, that's all you got?' kind of look. She sent an exasperated gaze back at him. It wasn't as if he had come up with anything better than that.

Lake didn't respond. She kept her eyes locked on whatever ice cave she'd seen with her mouth set in a line.

"I'm just saying," Rain said, trying again. "That not all's lost. We still are getting in some quality bro time, right? And, uh, yeah. It'll work out. Things always work out eventually, y'know?"

"What are you even talking about, Rain?" Lake muttered.

"Uh, um, well..." Rain took a moment, trying to think of the most diplomatic way to approach this. While actively repressing the realization that this was exactly the sort of thing her father would try to do. "Okay, so, we don't have the book. But that's okay. It's, like, the same as your dream, right? So, well... yeah."

Neither the dream nor the book meant anything. Could she find a way to say that diplomatically?

"I think Rain is saying that we don't need a book to have a camping trip," Fish said, like the remark was supposed to be helpful.

It was not.

wc: 2,676/2500

"u and rina are systematically watering down the grammar of yws" - Atticus
"From the fish mother to the fish death god." - lehmanf
"A fish stole my identity. I blame shady" - Omni
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Tue May 17, 2022 1:44 am
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soundofmind says...



A low rumble echoed somewhere beneath them, deep under the snow. Under the ice. It was a familiar sound for Lake - for all of them - but one they were better aquainted with in the shifting of the seasons. Of which, they hadn't experienced in far, far too long.

When the lake would freeze over in the winters, the ice would get several (sometimes dozens of) inches thick, but it would always be clear enough to perceive the depth of the lake, as long as it was clear of snow. When walking over it, Lake could remember looking down, seeing how the crystalline blue waters went from a vibrant, almost turquoise blue to a deep, deep darkness. It was like a gradient. One that went so far down it was almost imperceptible.

But here, she couldn't see past the dozens of inches of soft, powdered snow.

Her eye twitched.

That was the sound of ice.

Ice cracking, somewhere far beneath them.

A crack that deep wouldn't affect them, and the ice could hold a lot of weight during this time of year, but something about how the shatter echoed, and kept echoing unsettled some of Lake's rock-hard resolve.

Fists clenched around the handle of the sled, she took in a measured breath, but it only seemed to add fuel to the fire.

"Oh Cheva, this cannot be happening. This cannot be happening," Fish said in a panic as the three of them watched the ice stretch across the lake. "We're going to drown."

"It's not. Just. A camping trip," she said through her teeth.

"... What?" Fish said, like he didn't even hear her. He looked up at her, eyes full of panic and desperation. "Lake, the lake is cracking! We gotta... we gotta run!"

"The ice cracks like this all the time," Lake said sharply, but the sound only persisted. Echoing further. Deeper.

"It does not crack like this," Rain argued, eyes wide as she looked around fearfully.

"Oh god, I think I'm going to faint. I can hear the fish."

"Are you serious, Fish?" Lake spat.

In response, Fish scampered towards the back of the sled, holding on to the giant bag of stuff like it was some kind of ocean buoy meant to keep him afloat. "I DON'T WANT TO DROWN!" he wailed loudly.

Lake groaned, but it came out more like a growl in the back of her throat as she rolled her eyes and leaned into her stance on the sled.

Fish was being such a drama queen.

"HIKE!" she shouted, and in full honesty, the shout was somewhat cathartic, getting to release at least some of the built up tension from Fish and Rain's constant condescenscion and complaining she was always putting up with.

"Your dad warned me this might happen," Fish started to wail some more, almost unintelligibly from how fast he was speaking and how often he kept looking around in a panic. "I knew this trip wasn't a good idea. I should have packed floaties! If we drown, no one would even know we--"

"Would you cut it out?" Lake cut in, still practically shouting. Snow and ice started to fly up behind them as the dogs eagerly, and somewhat nervously, started forward. She was driving them towards the light - not in the metaphorical sense. Towards the light she'd seen reflected off the ice earlier. By the cave.

As they flew over the ice, Lake could hear the echoing sound of the cracking building. Multiplying. It almost sounded like thunder.

"It's getting worse!" Fish commented uselessly.

Rain was sitting with eyes wide and fingernails digging into the sled, grasp so tight her knuckles were turning white. She looked like she wasn't breathing. Because she wasn't. Not really.

Lake's jaw was locked in place as she kept trying to push down what only felt like growing anger and frustration. It dawned on her - with the discomfort and the dread of someone who lacked a healthy sense of self-reflection on a normal basis - that this was an anger she'd kept locked up for a long time, and now was probably the worst moment to let it spring up, when she was driving a sled over a crumbling lake.

But they were speeding towards the cave, and hope wasn't all lost. It wasn't like the ice would just--

Something shifted, and the left side of the sled tilted down suddenly.

Rain yelped and dove towards the other side of the sled to try to counter-balance. Fish, meanwhile, was still holding on to the giant bag, screaming with the highest pitch voice Lake had ever heard.

Lake bounced for a moment but caught herself, keeping herself steady and standing on the back of the sled.

"Gah!" she hissed. "Just hang on! Hike!"

She shouted again, but the dogs didn't seem to need much prompting to know to run faster.

A lightning storm flashed into existence overhead. Thankfully no precipitation and no big flashes. Yet. But little rumbles and flashes in the clouds. Ominous. Threatening.

Dear Cheva. Fish and Rain were freaking out. Why did she always have to be the one keeping it all together? Why did she always have to stay steady for everyone else? Over and over again she'd put her own emotions aside to make room for others to feel things, and express themselves, and be however messy they needed to be. She'd always put on a smile, make jokes, be the happy and chill one who never got flustered, never got upset - at least never in a real way. Not in a way that would ever have consequences, or ruffle feathers, or make anyone feel like she wasn't the safe, dependable rock of the friendship group she'd been formed into over the years.

But all of that? For years? Was so much weight to carry.

No wonder she never felt like she could do much more with her life than chop wood. Nothing was wrong with it. It was an honest job. But when she was already carrying the emotional stability of all her friends, and her whole family... where was the room for her to be... to be herself?

To be angry?

This was all too much for her to even process. It all flooded to the front of her brain like a giant wave, and it was overwhelming.

Pinching her eyes shut, she felt cold, freezing tears leak past her eyelashes, only to be pushed back by the rushing air. The ice started cracking louder, but this time, it really did sound like it was starting to give, and fall away behind them.

The back of the sled dipped, and she was the first to feel it. She heard the slosh of water creeping past the snow and ice, and it splashed against her boots. Gripping the sled even tighter, she grit her teeth, and looked out to the cave.

It was so close. Just a little further.

The sled started to rock, as the ice became less and less steady, and even the dogs ahead were starting to zig-zag their way through unstable ground.

Another growl built up in the back of her throat, and Lake felt a desperation rise up like a wave.

And then the water rose beneath them.

Instead of pulling them down and under, the water built up behind them... like an actual wave. As the water broke through, it picked up the back of the sled as if it were a small vessel, and the water came rushing behind them, pushing them foward.

The precipitation came and cold rain pelted them, each droplet stinging exposed skin from the force.

Rapidly, they flew over the ice, and the dogs lost their footing, and the sled, and the dogs, all practically flying through the air, landed and skidded... right into the cave.

Freezing, cold water splashed onto all of them, and Lake fell off the sled, landing on the hard, frozen cave floor with a heavy thunk. With heavy breaths, she laid face-down, practically panting.

What was this she felt?

It felt like she'd used her magic. This was the kind of tired she felt from magical over-exertion. But... but she hadn't even... sang a song?

wc: 1388/2500
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Tue May 17, 2022 2:17 am
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Carina says...



Fish really thought he was going to die.

It was like a teased-out form of foreshadowing. Keigan, so casually mentioning their journey over the lake and how they should be careful about breaking ice. Them, realizing they had newfound magic.

And not being able to do a single damn thing about it.

The ice was breaking, shattering, crumbling - and they were smack dab in the middle of it all.

The last thing Fish remembered was screaming his head off, a glimpse of a tidal wave of water, and then nothing. His mind blanked it out. Maybe he really was dead.

Being dead sure was heavy...

Coming back into consciousness, Fish realized he was laying face-first on frozen ice-ground. Not ice-lake. He could hear Rain shout something as a weight was lifted off of him. Oh. That was Rain.

So he wasn't dead?

"I got--we got to get d--d--dry," Lake started to say. Her teeth were chattering loudly. She let out a frustrated huff.

Meanwhile, the storm was only growing outside the cave, dimming the world even though it was still broad daylight, behind the storm clouds that had materialized.

Or maybe that was what he imagined. Or did that actually happen? Fact and fiction were getting mixed up in his head now.

Oh, Cheva. He was alive. They were alive.

But he was deathly cold. He could barely even think.

"The fire w--within," Lake started to shakily, and hastily sing. "Amidst the s--s--storm. Come out to b--urn and keep me warm.”

Then she cursed under her breath, and tried again.

Get it together. Get it together, Fish thought to himself, groaning as he tried to move something. He only managed to barely get his lips moving because it felt like he didn't even have limbs.

"Fire," he said in the deepest voice he could muster, trying to help Lake conjure fire magic as well.

There was a slight delay, then he heard a slapping noise, and Rain softly saying "ow."

"Dance!" Lake whispered.

There was a loud rumble of thunder instantly. But he was vaguely aware that Rain started doing... something. She was moving anyway.

"Fire," Fish said again so lowly it sounded like a frog's croak. But at least it was working now.

For some reason, the three of their frozen and terrible magic conjuring seemed to be just enough to do the trick. The cave felt warmer and warmer until it felt almost like a sauna.

Wait, no, it was a sauna.

The fire they brought sizzled the ice around them until steam filled the cave and defrosted their skin and clothes. It felt rejuvenating at first, especially when Fish was able to actually feel his limbs again - but then it just became too much. It was getting hard to breathe.

"Okay, okay, stop!" Fish said in a normal voice. Or at least, what he thought was normal. He tried too hard and it came out sounding high-pitched. "No more singing and dancing," he said again after clearing his throat.

Then he felt someone grab him, flip him over, and sit him up. At this point, he was so used to people grabbing him and pulling him around that he reacted like a limp rag doll. It didn't help that the movement made his head dizzy and he clumsily almost splat back down on the ground.

"Come on," Lake said, grabbing him again and this time holding him up at his shoulders. Lacking any gentleness, she turned his head side to side and flashed a flashlight in both of his eyes before she put her fingers on his neck, likely feeling for a pulse.

It was like the flash inserted a memory in his head.

A flash of lightning. The three of them on the sled, flying through the air with a tidal wave around them.

A tidal wave. Like, a water tidal wave. Like the sled was surfing.

Was that a dream?

No. This felt too real.

"Okay, okay," she muttered. "He's fine. Just... in shock, or something. I'm not a doctor. But he's breathing. Was probably just cold and hit the ground hard."

The closest thing there was as a response from Rain was the fact that the storm eased up ever so slightly, the rumbles still very present but sounding a little further away now. Less urgent.

Fish then opened his eyes wide and stared at Lake closely. Maybe a little too closely.

"Lake, we were surfing," he whispered urgently. "Surfing."

"Yeah," Lake said flatly. "Surfing U.S.A.," she sing-songed.

"Surfing on the lake!" Fish corrected, the joke flying over his head.

"What... what..." Rain sounded like she was restraining herself. Like she was having to actively remember words other than profanity. "The... what was that?"

Lake, still holding Fish up firmly at his shoulders, looked over to Rain, but she hesitated.

"The... the ice cracking, you mean?" she asked more timidly than he could really ever remember Lake sounding.

"And the water... How...?" Fish groaned and slowly started to stand up, his thawed-out legs almost buckling beneath him. "Was that... random? Was that any of you guys?"

Fish paused, an idea then coming to his head as he stared at Lake suspiciously.

"... Was that you, Lake?" he asked.

Lake was silent. Out of character, for her.

He watched as she swallowed, eyes flicking from Fish, to Rain, and to the wall.

"Was it you?" Rain echoed, more accusingly.

"All of it?" Lake asked quietly. "I... I mean, I don't know. I..."

Fish was dumbfounded. Of all the powers...

Why did hers have to be cracking ice on a lake? Oh god, this was the worst. Cheva was testing him.

"Th-the wave," Lake said, stuttering even though she clearly wasn't freezing anymore. "That... that was me."

Fish's brain was loading like a buffering video as he tried to process her words. The wave... Of course. That made more sense. The water was dormant under the ice, which meant...

"So you can control water?" he concluded.

wc: 2,397/2,500
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Shady says...



This wasn't happening.

This wasn't happening.

This... was going to get worse if she didn't get herself under control. Rain took a deep breath and actively forced her shoulders to relax and jaw to unclench. This was happening. Whether she liked it or not.

At least for now.

They were going to be finding a way home now, though. With or without the lake. She'd only been partly in on this whole quest in the first place -- and now she was out.

She huffed a little and turned towards Lake to see her answer to Fish's question.

"Water isn't the weather, Fish," Lake said flatly.

"I certainly didn't do that," Rain said defensively, indignation welling up in her. Were they implying that this was somehow her fault? "That was most-definitely a you-thing. Or a one-of-you-thing. Not me."

wc: 2,535/2,500

"u and rina are systematically watering down the grammar of yws" - Atticus
"From the fish mother to the fish death god." - lehmanf
"A fish stole my identity. I blame shady" - Omni
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Tue May 24, 2022 1:20 am
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Shady says...



How dare they, imply that this was her fault? It most definitely was not. They were just looking for things to blame her for at this point. Turning her into the scapegoat for no good reason whatsoever. What more could they possibly want from her? She was trying so hard to keep her magic in check. Had barely slept. Was doing an obscene amount of mental meditation. And now this? This? She split her glare between her two friends, waiting to see which would answer first.

"I know it wasn't you," Lake said snippily, though looked like she was cringing at her own words.

"Yeah, that wave seems... different," Fish added. "Like, not weather. Just water."

Well. Good, then. At least they were being half-reasonable about all this. She slowly nodded once. "Well... what are we supposed to do now, then?"

Fish looked back toward the mouth of the cave, then again at Lake. The cave, then at lake.

"Think you can do it again?" he asked.

"You want to go back on the water?" Lake asked. "Just a minute ago you were crying about drowning."

"Absolutely not. I am not drowning today, or ever," Fish said gruffly. "What about, I don't know..." He gestured toward all the snow and ice around them. "This was all water once. Can you control that? With fire magic, seems like it'd be really useful to control all of that. You know?"

"What do you expect me to do with a bunch of water? Make an ice fortress like Elsa?" Lake asked, shooting Fish an annoyed look.

"I was thinking we could start a water tribe nation. You can be our Katara," Fish said matter-of-factly.

"Rain does have Sokka energy," Lake mumbled to herself.

Fish hestitated, flicking his eyes between the two of them. "Then what does that make me?"

"Appa, definitely," Lake said.

"Thanks. I'm definitely an a thousand pound animal that eats hay and flies around all day," he said flatly.

"Maybe you got animal talking powers for a reason," Lake said with a shrug.

Fish aggresively shook his head, reeling back the conversation to the main topic at hand here. "Why do we all have these new powers? What's the reason for that?"

"Oh, we're getting back on topic now?" Rain asked dryly.

"What do you suggest we talk about, Sokka?" Fish said just as dryly.

"How we're getting home," she answered sourly. "Because we are going home. Now."

"If you'll look to your left here," Lake said, gesturing down the icy cave that looked to be a deep tunnel. "There may be another way out. The cave might lead out somewhere else not by the open water."

"Nope. Nooope, nope. We are not going down a mysterious cave that could lead to nowhere," Fish said as he backed away with his hands up.

"It's only mysterious to you because you've never been there before," Lake retorted. "And it's not like the lake is a better option. All of the ice outside this cave is broken and won't hold our sled or even us anymore. At least, not without a doubt."

"I don't know, Lake..." Fish said nervously as he eyed the broken sheets of ice over the now-still lake. "Maybe Rain's right. Maybe we should just go home."

"Rain is definitely right," Rain said. "This was a--" Stupid idea. From the start. "Long shot. And now it's just... we'd be stupid to keep tempting fate. It's clear the universe doesn't want us to go on this quest."

"So you think the universe gave us powers to make us go home?" Lake asked pointedly. "While the rest of Chevan is basically magic-less?"

"What is drowning in the middle of the wilderness going to help them?" Rain snapped. Gods. She was out of patience for entertaining Lake's nonsense. How had such a near-death experience not snapped her out of her foolish idealism?

"I'm just saying - practically - I don't see another way out right now besides giving the cave tunnels a shot. None of us are really sure what we're capable of right now with our magic, and I'm not willing to risk it trying to turn water into ice or whatever. I got a wave to push us here but that was because I freaked it," Lake said.

"And which way are you wanting the tunnels to lead?" Rain snapped. "'Cause if they don't lead back home, we're not going that way. We're done, Lake. We're done. This trip is over. We're going home."

"Okay, well if you don't like my idea," Lake said, getting to her feet to face Rain. "Then what do you want to do to get out of here, huh?"

"I want to go back to twenty-four hours ago before I agreed to this stupidity," she snapped, also standing up and glaring at Lake with her arms crossed.

"That's not a solution, Rain," Lake challenged. "I'm actually trying to come up with something here. All you two are doing is complaining. That's all you've done this whole trip!"

Noticing the rising hostility, Fish stood up with them, getting between the two of them with his hands up. "Maybe we, uh, we could take a deep breath here. Yeah?"

"I'll breathe if we make it home," Rain hissed. "And yeah, I sure as heck am going to complain the whole way back. And probably after that, too. If we even survive this. I think this might be the pinnacle of bad ideas we've acted on. The stupidest of stupid ideas."

"You didn't have to come, Rain," Lake spat.

"Oh, I know. I didn't have to come, but I did, because I was trying to be supportive, and now you're just... just..." Rain growled, unable to think of the words to express how frustrated she was just then.

"Oh, so now it's my fault that I'm not grateful that you guys pitied me enough to tag along," Lake scoffed, throwing her arms up in the air with a huff as she paced away.

"It wasn't 'pity' it was an attempt to be good friends and keep you safe. But now none of us are safe and no one is being a good friend, honestly. We all just need to go home and cool off and warm up and see if we want to die this much in the morning."

"Then how do you suggest we get home?!" Lake shouted, gesturing to the cave opening and the floating shards of ice on the open water. "You keep saying we should just go home! Well, what do you want me to do? Sure! Fine! I got us in this mess, but no one seems to like the only idea I can come up with to try to find a way out! So what now?"

"How should I know?" Rain shouted back, increasingly angrier.

"Then just run with me one last time and let's go down the stupid tunnel and at least see if it leads somewhere!" Lake yelled.

Right. Because running with her had worked soooooo well for them up to this point. Rain glanced down the tunnel. She didn't see much of an other option, honestly. She sure as heck wasn't going to trust any of their volatile new magic to get them across the lake. And. Well. She huffed. "Fine."

Fish, who had kept out of the argument the whole time, finally spoke up as he tried to give the two of them some space to cool down.

"So... we're going down the tunnel?" he asked.

Rain didn't really have the patience for Fish right now, either, or his stupid questions. But she needed to cool off. Before she summoned a cyclone or something on accident. She sighed and rubbed her face. "Guess so."

Fish hesitated some more. "... Right now?"

Rain sent an irritable glance towards Lake and waited.

"Let me... we might not be able to bring the sled down, depending on how the tunnel goes," Lake said quietly. "I think we'll need to carry our stuff. I'll unhook the dogs and they can just follow us on foot."

"Need any help?" Fish asked after another short pause.

"Sure," Lake said with a sigh.

Fish nodded, glancing at Rain before he moved. "Do you, uh... need to, I don't know... cool down, or..."

Rain looked at him sourly. "No. I was planning on just staying angry. Thought it'd be fun to add some spicy weather to make things more exciting."

"Maybe you should sit towards the edge there and bask in the happy sunlight," Fish said, ignoring her sarcasm. It was hard to tell if he was also sarcastic or if it was just an ignorant remark.

Rain snorted and rolled her eyes. "Just go help Lake or something."

"'Kay." He took a step forward, but then paused to turn around again. "It'll be alright. I just thought... yeah. Everything will be okay."

wc: 1,515/2,500

"u and rina are systematically watering down the grammar of yws" - Atticus
"From the fish mother to the fish death god." - lehmanf
"A fish stole my identity. I blame shady" - Omni
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Tue May 24, 2022 1:57 am
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Carina says...



Sure, Fish wasn't happy either. Gavin the bear traumatized him and almost drowning over ice traumatized him even more. He did want to go home, but he was also curious about why they all developed powers. And as his friends were yelling at each other, he couldn't help but feel frozen in place, not sure how to help either of them.

So he didn't. Not really. Not until they both got too annoyed to talk to one another.

As Rain went off on her own to cool down and - presumably - stop herself from summoning an angry tornado, Fish rushed over to Lake, who was doing exactly what she said she would do. Unpacking the sled, all huffy and annoyed.

"So, how can I help?" Fish asked, but it not only got Lake's attention, but the dogs as well. "I'm talking to Lake, not you," he added.

"Take this," Lake said, shoving his bag into his hands.

His overpacked, heavy bag.

As soon as it left her hands, Fish found himself almost falling forward carrying it.

"Dear god, the dog was carrying all this?" he hissed as he steadied himself with the bag.

"You can speak with them," Lake muttered, pulling more things out of the bag. "If you feel like you have to apologize."

Fish looked down at Poutine, the closest dog sitting and panting next to him. "How did you carry all this?" he asked him.

Poutine happily barked back. "Dog treats."

"Yeah, I'm not falling for that," Fish mumbled as he dragged the bag across the ice so he could catch up with Lake. "Sorry it's so heavy... even though some of the weight is from dog treats."

"Dog treats?" Claw barked.

"Treats!" Fang barked as well, prompting the other dogs to all chant for treats now.

Fish sighed, still dragging the bag and following Lake. "They're all wanting dog treats now," he told her.

"Why?" Lake asked. "Dogs want treats all the time. Just let them be," Lake said simply as she started unhooking the dogs from their harnesses.

Fish awkwardly stood next to her with the bag, feeling somewhat helpless and not at all useful, which wasn't an unfamiliar feeling to him. Still, Lake usually filled that gap and included him and Rain. It was making her nervous that she was this annoyed.

He almost wished that she would go back to teasing him. At least that way it'd feel like there was less tension in the room right now.

Fish stared down at the bag as a few moments of silence passed. He ignored the dogs' cries for treats, but they eventually winded down.

"Sorry about the book," he said, deciding to just rip the bandaid off. "It's been a stressful week for all of us."

Lake was quiet for a moment as Storm, the lead dog, was set free. No longer harnesses in, she rushed up to Fish, tail wagging. Fish unenthusiastically patted her head a couple of times.

"...Thanks," Lake said quietly.

"At least it's kind of comical," Fish offered. "Like, instead of 'a dog ate my homework,' it's 'a bear stole my book.'"

"It's not even my book, though," Lake said. "It's your dad's."

"Honestly, I think he won't even notice it's gone. Don't even worry about it." He sighed. "But I know it was important to you anyways, so... sorry it's gone."

Lake let out a long sigh as she freed Claw and Fang, and two more dogs came close to Fish's heels, fighting for his attention. Lake stood to her feet and turned to Fish with a look of resignation, but then offered a small smile.

Reaching forward, she pulled Fish in for a hug.

Normally, she'd squeeze the living daylights out of him. But this time, she just hugged him gently, resting her chin on his shoulder.

"I'm just... glad you're both okay," she said, barely audible.

Fish didn't know where this came from, but he welcomed it, even if it felt a little awkward. He patted her back gently.

"Yeah. Me too," he said quietly, but then grimaced at the thought of drowning in the lake. "You know, your dad was the one who warned me about crossing the lake. I feel like that was a bad omen from the start."

"You can take that up with him when we get back," Lake said as she pulled away. "He says stuff like that, sometimes. Likes to mess with you."

"Yeah... yeah," Fish said with a nod. "We can tell him all about it when we get back after the weekend. Right?"

"Yeah," Lake said with a small smile, and then returned to the other dogs.

Fish looked down at the bag that he put down by his feet. The dogs had been all around him like he was their talking dog king, and he had to shoo some of them away when they sniffed at the hole of the bag. The hole that Gavin made. He'd have to try to duct tape that later or something so Lake wouldn't have to worry about it.

"So, this... trip. It really means that much to you?" Fish asked, deciding once again to just address the problem head-on.

Lake freed Fuzz and Big Guy, who only joined the other dogs in herding around Fish.

"Yeah. I still want to find Cheva," Lake mumbled softly.

Fish nodded slowly. "Right. Right, yeah." He paused. "I'm just curious, though. Why is this so important to you?"

"I thought I explained it all before," Lake said, freeing Odie. Again, the dog posse grew. "I want to find Cheva so she can help our town. Help get magic back. Help us figure out or magic."

"Right. I already knew that. I guess what I'm asking is..." Fish sighed, finally looking up to meet her eyes and gauge her reaction. "Why you? Us?"

wc: 2493/2500
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soundofmind says...



Lake slowed as she worked on Poutine's harness. He was bouncing on his feet, eager to get free and harass Fish along with the other dogs.

That was a good question.

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soundofmind says...



Why them?

It was a fair question. It wasn't like there was anything spectacular about them that made them special. Not in the grand scheme of things. And it wasn't like the three of them had aspired to be anything great - not before their magical gifts. In fact, it really was the opposite. They'd all fallen short and been disappointments to their families in some way or another, and even Lake had never been good enough at magic to make a career out of it.

Lamely, Lake couldn't really think of a witty or meaningful answer.

She released the last two dogs, leaving the sled empty. Pulling her backpack over her shoulders and grabbings two more bags under her arms, she stood up tall and watched as the dogs herded around Fish, tails wagging, ready to follow.

"I don't know, Fish," she said with a sigh. "Maybe ask me later, when we're on the other side of this story and not in the middle of it. I can't see into the future and get that kind of perspective right now."

"Yeah. Yeah, sure." Fish patted the dogs that begged for the most attention, but for the most part continued to be present with Lake, following behind. "We've got two more days of figuring out this... story. And figuring out the magic stuff. So until then..."

He trailed off, looking at Lake expectedly. It seemed even he didn't know where to go from here.

"Well," Lake said, clearing her throat. "I guess... it's time to go for a walk."

She regretted her choice of words when all the dogs started spazzing out, jumping and yapping excitedly. Fish, previously surrounded by all the dogs, immediately yelled at them to calm down.

"Rain," Lake said over the chaos of the sled dogs, "Do you want me to help carry some of your things?"

Rain stood up with a sigh and a nod, still pissy, but less actively angry than she'd been a few minutes before. She strode over and reached for the bags. "Sure."

"I'll trade you my bag for yours," Fish said as he gestured towards his giant heavy bag on the ground.

"Mine or hers?" Lake asked with a raised brow.

Out of the three of them, somehow, ironically, she'd packed the least.

"Yes. Either. But preferably yours," Fish said.

"Use your Y chromosome my man," Rain said, not even pretending to consider it.

"No thanks. I'm good." Fish exchanged his bag for Lake's anyways.

Shrugging Fish's heavy pack over her shoulders, Lake let out another huff through her nose. Though they were all dry and warmer now, she felt a small chill as she saw her breath billow out of her nose.

Turning down the icy tunnel, she carefully stepped on the places where the snow and ice were more matted and hadn't been softened by the flood of water pouring in. Looking back with a simple nod of her head, she beckoned the others to follow.

Storm, the lead dog, rushed ahead to walk alongside her, but the other dogs seemed to be waiting for Fish.

Fish twirled his hand in front of him as he tiredly watched the dogs. "Please. Dogs first," he said, and the dogs happily followed, trotting in front of him.

Rain shifted the weight of her pack and strode forward to walk next to him, though she didn't say anything.

The three of them started the walk in silence, and as they went deeper into the icy tunnel, the sound of their footsteps echoing off the walls became louder and more contained. The tunnel started off wide, with plenty of room for them all to walk alongside one another if they'd wanted, but it grew narrower, to where it made more sense for them to walk in a line. Storm was still able to circle around Lake, though, when she periodically stopped and turned around to make sure everyone was following.

The air grew colder, but more still. Occasionally they'd pass under icicles or have to slow down a bit because the ground beneath them was exceptionally slick.

Lake could sense that Fish was getting apprehensive, but that wasn't anything new. He was always anxious over something, especially if it involved a new environment.

"This tunnel is getting really narrow," he said quietly, deciding to break the silence with this obvious observation.

"Thanks for the update," Lake said, though she kind of had to force a smirk as she looked back at him.

"I once played this video game where the character went through a tunnel like this. I died and had to start over. Because the tunnel got so narrow I got stuck."

"What game was that?" Lake asked. "Minecraft?"

"Club Penguin?" Rain suggested.

"I'm just saying. It was traumatizing," Fish said stubbornly.

"It was a video game," Lake emphasized. "Not real life."

"I also read this comic where the mountains beckoned people to go in a hole in the mountain." He paused, grimacing. "The hole got small enough that they turned to spaghetti."

"That's... okay," Lake said with a shake of her head. "You know what, remind me to never take comic recommendations from you."

"Okay, but what if this tunnel gets narrow like that?" Fish continued, a little more desperate.

"Hey don't be upsetty, we'll be spaghetti," Rain said, very, very clearly trying not to think about it.

"We turn around, doofus," Lake said with a roll over her eyes. "What, you think we just push through? If it's too small, we stop."

Fish took a long, deep sigh that he frequently did whenever he was teased. He reached his hand up, his fingers just barely grazing the icy ceiling.

"How small is too small? I'm going to have to crouch soon. It's feeling kinda claustrophobic in here," he said.

"Come on, Fish," Lake said. "You're not that tall."

He scoffed. "Yeah, okay, but I'm just saying, it's getting there."

Lake only sighed.

As if to assuage Fish's fears, as they went just a little further the tunnel started to open up a bit, getting wider again.

They continued on again for a while with spotty conversation, and without the sunshine to give any indicator of the time, Lake found herself checking her watch a lot. In the tunnels, or caves, or whatever was befitting to call them, it was getting darker the further they went in. Not quite pitch black, because the ice had strange properties and reflected light, but they did all end up pulling out flashlights after a bit.

The tunnel did continue to widen, and eventually, they reached an open area that almost felt like a small room since it was all enclosed. When Lake checked the time, it was starting to get late, and seeing that the tunnel narrowed down just a little bit, she figured it would be a good place to stop and camp out for a bit.

They'd made it pretty far, walking for a few good hours at a steady pace, stopping on occasion to snack and get water.

When they all came to a stop, they all started to feel the weariness of walking for so much of the day, and they ended up pulling out their sleeping bags and flopping down into them just after they managed to get a fire going.

Lake didn't know what the next day would bring, but she was really, really hoping that the tunnels did let out somewhere.

Otherwise, all of this really would be for nothing, and she'd have her friends' deaths weighing on her for the rest of her life... however long that'd be.

wc: 1277/2500
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Shady says...



Welp, this was it.

They were going to die.

Awesome.

Rain felt like she had heard a story once -- she couldn't remember the details to save her life -- about this guy who got stuck in a cave. Had a boulder crush his wrist and hand and he was going to starve to death. So he took out a knife and cut his own hand off to get out.

Her toes had always curled when she thought about that.

It was horrifying to think about.

It could never be her.

It would never be her.

She'd simply stay there until she starved to death or got too dehydrated or whatever else happened if you refused to cut your own hand off.

Same vibes.

She had the distinct feeling that they weren't making it out of this cave. Ever. By the time they got far enough in to conclude there was no exit, it'd be too far to turn back. They'd run out of food. Starve to death.

And that was provided that they didn't get crushed by the ice if the tunnel collapsed.

Not to mention the nonsense that their magic had turned into.

She decided she just needed to go to sleep before she got too much into her own head and summoned a-a-cyclone or something. Sharknado. Avalanche. Nothing seemed off the table these days.

Rain laid down and closed her eyes and forced herself to breathe deeply. She still didn't want to risk sleeping. But she had to. Her annoyance with Lake earlier proved that. It seemed like an accidental nightmare held less risk than an active fight with a friend.

At least with nightmares, the fear only lasted a few minutes.

Meanwhile, her annoyance with Lake had been ongoing for quite a while.

So, sleep.

She eventually drifted off to the most crackbrained of dreams there was.

    There was her father and his friends. But they were young. Which was weird -- she'd been pretty convinced he was born a ninety-year-old man, but no. They were young. And trapped in the very same tunnel that Rain was sleeping in now.

    Lee was dragging along at the back of the pack, shivering. "This is getting us nowhere."

    "Not with that attitude we're not," Fischer, Fish's dad, said. He towered over Lee, effortlessly holding the same bag that he had given Fish for their trip, and it was just as packed and heavy.

    "I'm surprised you get anything done with that attitude," Keigan said. "Because you always have an attitude."

    "Oh, look, here's me, being very impacted by that statement," Lee said flatly. "Behold, I have changed my wicked ways."

    Keigan paused in his steps, looking past Fischer to purse his lips at Lee.

    "Nah. I'm not convinced," he said.

    "Quit yer yappin'. I'm tired of hearing you complain all day. Wasn't following the prophecy your idea?" Fischer said tiredly, still marching along.

    Lee scoffed. "I don't have ideas this stupid. You're lucky I agreed to this at all."

    Fischer sighed. "Lemme guess here. You only agreed for the fame and the politics. Yeah, okay, Lee."

    "I'm just saying." Lee held up the book. "This seemed like a better idea before we came. For now, I want to go home and pretend like we didn't go off half-cocked like this."

    "Lee, you're the one who found the book in the first place," Keigan retorted. "Calm down."

    "When, in the history of ever, has been telling someone -- with valid complaints -- to calm down a good plan?"

    "Calm down," Fischer said anyways. "You're makin' the icicles jiggle from all your yellin'. You don't wanna be impaled now, do ya?"

    "Don't threaten me with a good time," he said dryly.

    Fischer reached in his inner coat pocket and pulled out a sheet of paper that looked somewhat similar to the pages from the book. It was hard to tell what was on it since he was waving it around with his big wrist, but there were words and pictorials that they hadn't seen before. It looked to be torn off from the seams.

    "You sure you're not the beast in the prophecy? 'Cause it sure seems like it," Fischer said with a smirk.

    Keigan honked with laughter.

    "Har har." Lee rolled his eyes. "What's on those pages again? We... need to figure this out before we go any further."

    "It's a bunch of symbols in some ancient language," Keigan said. "Any luck translating, my Fischer friend?"

    "My 'pops taught me some of the ancient Chevan symbols. Learned it from an ole picture book, so maybe it's all garbage. But..." Still walking, Fischer straightened out the pages and intensely stared at it, concentrating on the symbols. "We know it's a prophecy about children of the water, sky, and beast restoring the magic. Hence why I'm thinkin' you're the ugly sonuvva beast it's referencing, Lee."

    "So does that make you the airhead?" Lee asked dryly.

    Fischer looked sharply over his shoulder, glaring at Lee. "You think I'm the airhead?"

    "Nah, his name's Fischer," Keigan said. "Obviously he's the water guy."

    "Now I'm thinkin' Lee's the airhead for not noticing the obvious."

    "It's not funny if you repeat someone else's joke," Lee scoffed.

    "Uh-huh. I think it's plenty hilarious. Thanks," Fischer said dryly, chuckling at himself.

    Lee rolled his eyes and glanced ahead. "So... any ideas on how much longer this tunnel is gonna go on for? I feel like we've been walking a suspicious amount of hours and everything looks the same."

    "Why, want me to carry you?" Fischer asked.

    Lee rolled his eyes again, looking down the tunnel again. "I'm the only adult here. Got it."

    Without warning, Fischer then briskly turned around and effortlessly scooped Lee up, perching him on his shoulder while his other bag was leaning against his other shoulder. "Shush, now. Fischer's got you," he said through a cackle as he resumed his march forward.

    "Put me down!" Lee thrashed, hitting him on the back as best as he could with awkward angle. "You big oaf! Put! Me! Down!"

    "You hear somethin', Keigs? Sounds like a buzzing gnat. Or maybe a 'skeeter..."

    "Maybe this'll make him complain less," Keigan said with a snicker.

    "Consider this your time out," Fischer said with growing smugness.

    "What is wrong with you?" Lee was still pounding against his back, but he didn't even flinch. "Put! Me! Down!"

    "Ah, damn. Perfect timing. Or maybe not-so-perfect, huh?" Fischer said as he gestured forward with his head.

    Up ahead, they could finally see the end of the tunnel. It didn't lead outside like they thought.

    It led to a door.

    "Yes!" Keigan exclaimed with excitement, and he started to hurry forward with a controlled slide across the icy floor.

    "Careful, Keigs! You'll slide and break yer neck! The door ain't going anywhere," Fischer said as he finally let Lee down. Or at least, slid him down head-first so that he could possibly break his neck instead. "Ah, oops. Sorry Lee."

    Lee huffed and kicked at him. He gathered himself up and sourly walked towards the door.

    When they walked closer, they could see that the door was made out of ice, but it seemed heavy like metal. It was giant and angled throughout the entirety of the cave, the frame twisting around like a root of a tree. It almost seemed... alive.

    The most noticeable features were the runic symbols etched throughout the doors. It was unlike anything they had ever seen, and it was different from the symbols in the book.

    "Hm... Yeah, my 'pops never taught me what these symbols mean. Think it's important?" Fischer said as he grazed his finger over them.

    Keigan whipped out his pickaxe, spinning it in his hand at his side.

    "Whoa!" Lee protested, holding his hands out in front of him.

    "Now hold on a minute," Fischer protested at the same time.

    "Why read runes when we could just bust it down?" Keigan protested.

    "We don't want Cheva busting us down," Lee pointed out.

    "Yeah, Lee's right. I don't think destroying a godly door is gonna do anything," Fischer said in agreement.

    "There's gotta be a way to open it," Lee said thoughtfully, squinting at the runes. He finally felt like this was his moment to shine. Something studious... and yet he was very much out of his league and didn't have any idea what any of this meant.

    "Yeah, this seems like some sort of puzzle. Like in Indiana Jones. Just gotta be wary of the booby traps," Fischer said.

    "Maybe if I smash the runes in the right order," Keigan suggested.

    "Do not smash the runes," Fischer said sternly, somewhat threateningly.

    Lee pointed at Fischer and nodded once, silently agreeing. No smashing.

    Keigan sighed, putting the pickaxe away on his hip.

    "Fine. But none of us can read it, so if it has instructions, they're lost on us," he muttered.

    Lee put his hand on the door, fingertips running over the runes. "... we'll figure it out. We just have to... think."[/i]

wc: 2786/2500

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Carina says...



Fish snored. Again.

wc: 2789/2500
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Shady says...



Gods.

Rain couldn't even escape her father and his idiotic antics this far away from their hometown. Not even in her dreams. Gods. So much for sleeping supposed to be making her feel better about things and more emotionally stable. Hah. As if they could be that lucky. But no. Her father always had to rear his stupid, intrusive head and ruin any good thing that she had going for her.

And she didn't have anything good going for her these days.

Not a single thing.

She was freezing to death.

Exhausted.

Terrified.

Hungry.

Rain rolled over and pulled her blankets tighter around herself, eyes squeezed shut bitterly, but all hints of sleep gone now. It was no small miracle that she'd made it through a Dad Dream without causing a not so natural disaster. She wasn't going to push her luck with risking a second dream. Especially not now that she knew that her father had somehow gotten himself buried in the front of her subconscious.

Why?

Gods only knew.

Thinking about him was literally the furthest thing from helpful right now. Well, ever, really. Unless there was some unfathomable reason why you'd want her really angry and defensive. If that was the case, then thinking about him would do just the trick. But that's not what anyone wanted right now. So this was entirely unhelpful.

Maybe her subsconscious just thought about him anytime she was this miserable. An unconscious association, as it were. Her brain probably didn't realize that it was possible for anything else to antagonize her as well as her own father did.

He couldn't even let her have one thing for herself. Oh no. That would be too much. How dare she have the audacity to try for a hero's journey out from under her father's oppressive shadow? She should really know better than that by now, honestly. Of course he'd already done this first and better and blah blah blah and that's why she was doing so poorly.

At controlling her magic.

At being emotionally stable.

Hell, at even being a half-decent friend. Or human. Or living creature, really.

There wasn't much redeemable about the thing that she was swiftly becoming on this trip. And she needed to snap out of this. Pull herself together. Figure out a way to actually be useful for once in her life, before she finally proved her father right and her friends saw what a piece of trash she was. Always had been.

Rain squeezed her eyes shut tightly.

Stop it she hissed silently, angry at her own brain. Get. Out. Of. My. Head.

He could only upset her if she let him. That was what Mama had always said, through her entire childhood and adolescence, spent in a war with her overgrown man-child sperm donor. That Rain took father's power to upset her if she simply didn't let him. It didn't make it easy. Obviously. Mama admitted it wasn't ever going to be easy. But it'd worked then, and it was going to work now.

Deep breaths.

Decompress.

What did she know?

They were in a tunnel.

She cracked her eyes open.

Yes.

Tunnel.

Still.

Dogs. Friends. Bags. Everything just like she'd left it when she fell asleep. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly again and curled into a little ball, working to regulate her breathing. Forcing her shoulders to relax. Then her arms. Then her legs. Then her toes. Letting go of the tension bit by bit as she took deep breaths and slowly let them out, working on calming her brain.

Unfortunately, that brought with it the time and space to process the dream.

So, what, then? Was she supposed to believe her father and his friends had made a crackheaded road trip like this, just decades before? Yeah, sure, okay. Her dad ""definitely"" seemed like the type to do something like that.

She heard shuffling as Lake stretched out her limbs like a cat and let out a little groan. One of Lake's joints popped loud enough to hear. That quiet noise, for some reason, seemed just loud enough to wake Fish up since he immediately halted mid-snore, mumbled incomprehensibly, and then aggresively stirred to the other side, his legs in his sleeping bag now resting on Lake's side.

Lake pushed his legs lightly, but then crawled over to him, poking her finger in his ear. Fish immediately recoiled, flopping (ironically) like a fish in his sleeping bag as he tried to swat her hand away with his head.

"Aughgh uhgughh, wha--?" he grumbled as his eyes slowly and drowsily blinked awake. He then fiercely stared up at Lake.

"Wakey wakey chicken bakey," Lake chimed.

Fish frowned, annoyed as he rolled over to the other side. "Ugh, Lake. I told you to not wake me up like that. It freaks me out!"

Rain let out a silent sigh but didn't move, unwilling to be dragged into this nonsense.

"At least I didn't lick my finger this time," Lake defended. "Besides, you bumped me first. You move so much in your sleep, bro."

Fish deeply sighed. Since he rolled over to the other side, he was staring over in Rain's direction now, but he clearly still wanted to go back to sleep.

"That is not an excuse," he mumbled under the sleeping bag, barely audible.

"Okay then," Lake said with a sigh. "I'm sorry. Are you going to go back to sleep, now?"

Fish hesitated, but then poked his head up. "... Nah, I'll get up," he said simply, grunting as he swooped up to his feet and stretched his arms up. "We got a long day of, uh..." He stared into the tunnel ahead of them. "... going down that tunnel."

"True," Lake reminded him. "Lots more walking to do."

She then turned to look at Rain, and flashed Rain a small, tired smile when she saw she was awake.

"Mornin', Rain," Lake said.

"Mornin'," Rain said, groaning as she pushed herself upright and then settled back against the wall, looking between her friends. "How'd ya sleep?"

"Cold," Fish said bluntly.

"Mood," she agreed, blanket still bunched around her shoulders.

"I felt like a baby seal," Lake said, flopping and stretching out across the icy floor, with her arms and legs outstretched. "All swaddled in my sleeping bag."

"I wonder how baby seals taste," Fish thought out loud. "I'm kind of getting tired of eating this dry stuff."

"Fishie out here talking like a killer whale."

"Your mom is a killer whale," he dead-panned to Rain.

She turned a glare on him. It was entirely too early and too cold for him to be throwing 'your mom' jokes around.

"Hey, Fish, no your-mom jokes unless you want to be your-mom-ed back," Lake warned.

"That's the beauty of not having a mom," Fish said smugly, like it was supposed to be a clever comeback, but he only seemed to laugh at himself. "Anyways. It's too early for jokes. Serious vibes only, huh."

"We can joke after we eat something," Lake said, rolling over to get on her knees. She crawled over to her backpack and started digging around. "I've got some breakfast bars and fruit."

At that, Fish flopped back on the floor next to Rain. "Well... if that's all we got for our last night, I can't complain, I guess."

"I have more we can eat," Lake muttered. "This isn't our last meal."

"Could be," Rain said. "No promises either way, really."

"But it's our last breakfast." Fish glanced between Lake and Rain. "Right?"

Rain looked over at Lake. They were going to need to talk about this, she guessed. But now? Gods. What did they...? What even made sense at this point? They needed to come up with a game plan. And they needed to do it soon. She wasn't going to go off half-cocked anymore. That was old and played out. No. Now, they were going to plan. Strategize. Actually have a gameplan to move forward with rather than just a pipe dream.

"Yeah," Lake said belatedly as she pulled out a bunch of breakfast bars and tossed them at Fish and Rain.

Fish caught two mid-air, but a few others slid on the ice around them. "Hey Rain," he said with a little smirk and head nod at her. "Bet I can eat this in two bites?"

"It'll take you two?" she asked innocently, looking at him. "Weak."

Fish scoffed, unwrapping the breakfast bar. "I'd like to see you try."

"I'll be on standby for the heimlich," Lake said with a nod.

"One bite, one bite, one bite--" Rain chanted, pumping her fist.

At that, Fish gobbled up the breakfast bar, chomping it at the sixty percent mark, and then putting the rest of it in his mouth before he could fully chew and swallow. His cheeks round like chipmunks, he painfully gave Rain a thumbs up.

She snorted and rolled her eyes but gave a little smile despite herself and started unwrapping her own breakfast bar.

Lake kept an eye on Fish as she started peeling back her own wrapper and took a very normal sized bite. It looked like he needed a literal minute to chew. Rain watched her friends, casually eating a normal amount at a normal pace. "So... we uh... should probably come up with a game plan before we head out again."

"Did you have anything in mind?" Lake asked.

"I mean... no," she admitted. "But, like, we need... we need a goal. Something we can measure. To see if we're heading in the right direction, you know? Like... we need something. Not just walking in a tunnel for the rest of our lives."

"I have a compass," Lake said. "But I don't think that'll do us too much good. We have been going generally in the direction around the lake, though, so we're at least moving inland, it seems."

"Okay, but, like, then what?" Rain asked. "Do we even know where this leads? Or, like... how will we know when we've gone far enough?"

"I mean," Lake hummed. "I guess... we could give this like, half a day of going deeper in, and if we don't find an exit, we could decided to hurry and turn around and try the way we came in. Is that what you mean?"

"I don't know what I mean." She sighed and rubbed her face. "But if we go half a day in, then turn around, then we'll be ending today literally exactly where we are now. But more tired and with less food. So..."

"So you want to... what, go back now?" Lake asked.

"I just..." Rain sighed again. She wanted to go back a day and a half ago. But she wasn't going to say that, obviously. "I just think we... need... I don't know. You know what I'm trying to say, though? Like. We... we have to... we can't just keep walking and hope something happens. That... that's like how you end up with a medical emergency or something. Just because we're on a quest from god doesn't mean we don't have to plan."

"I mean, if I had service, I would just call home," Lake said. "But we don't out here. Coverage sucks out on the ice."

Fish had finished eating his breakfast bar a little bit ago, but he had been silently watching Rain and Lake go back and forth, not sure what to say or if he should intervene. He cleared his throat when there was a brief silence.

"I think what Rain's trying to say is that we haven't seen results yet and... yeah. But we got one more day to have something happen, and then we'll go back." He turned to Lake. "... Riiiiight?"

"Right," Lake said. "That's the original plan."

Fish turned to Rain. "So. We just wait it out one more day. Right?"

Lakes sighed. "Right."

"So we walk one more day, camp, and turn back if nothing happens?" Rain asked.

"Yes," Lake answered. "There. That plan enough for you?"

Rain looked at her irritably. "I'm not unreasonable for wanting to have a goal to our meandering."

Lake sighed deeply.

"I know," she said, sounding like she was trying very hard to not sound irritated in turn. "And now we have a plan. So we're good."

"Yeah, we're good. Right guys? We're good?" Fish said as he quickly glanced between the two of them, obviously trying to play mediator. Again.

"Yep." Rain pushed herself to her feet, not wanting to get into another argument with Lake, and she felt like that was exactly where this was about to head if she didn't do something about it. So instead she strode over to her blankets and began rolling them up to pack them away once again. Just had to get through one more day. May as well get it over with.

Lake started packing too, visibly distancing herself from Rain as she went off to feed the dogs.

wc: 2,170

"u and rina are systematically watering down the grammar of yws" - Atticus
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Mon Jun 20, 2022 4:57 pm
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Carina says...



Fish was no expert when it came to solving arguments with friends. He usually avoided getting into any or distanced himself enough that there wouldn't be an argument. So when he found himself caught between Rain and Lake arguing - again - he didn't really know what to do. He tried his best to keep it less heated, but it was obvious there was a thick tension in the air around them, especially since Lake basically stormed off by herself.

Fish sighed, hands in his pockets as he looked back at Rain. His stomach was grumbling and he wanted to actually eat the breakfast bars instead of just devouring one of them to entertain his friends, but he knew Rain probably needed some validation of some sort. He didn't really blame her, and he knew where she was coming from. But he also didn't want to upset Lake.

Trying not to make this awkward or accidentally upset her futher, Fish sauntered on over to her aggresively folding up the blankets, hands still in his pockets.

"So, uh... that was something," he said, not entirely sure what to say at first.

Rain cast an irritable look at him. "Yep."

"You okay?" he asked.

She sighed, sitting back on her heels as she looked at him tiredly. "Am I supposed to be?"

"Uh... I don't know. Are any of us really okay?" Fish said was a shrug, deciding to sit on the pile of blankets she finished up folding.

Rain sighed again as she looked at him, then rubbed her face. "I don't know. Apparently some of us are still into this whole suicide mission."

Fish hesitated, his eyes flicking over to Lake in the background feeding the dogs. "If you thought it was a suicide mission, why did you come?" he asked.

"I thought this was a harmless weekend away with friends," she said sourly, lowering her voice to be sure it wouldn't carry. "This isn't at all what I thought I was signing up for... is this what you were expecting?"

Fish was in thought for a moment. He didn't really know what he was expecting, really. He certaintly didn't expect to be talking to bears and dogs, though.

"I'm not sure, to be honest. But I mean... it is a pretty harmless weekend away with friends. We're not hurt, and we're all together. So..."

"So we're just going to ignore that we almost died on the ice and forget about Gavin and my whole weather-god-nonsense we've got going on?"

"I think if I always think about Lake out here trying to kill us with these experiences, I wouldn't be friends with her. But we are friends with her, partly because she's wild like that. Don't you think?" Fish said.

"I think we're going to end up dead if we just keep going along with it," Rain said sourly. "Not ha-ha dead. Like, dead-dead."

Fish sighed, trying to best figure out how to articulate his thoughts. He could relate to Rain, but he never really thought about the 'why' or 'how' or 'what happened.'

"Yeah... it'd be unsustainable if we kept this up forever. But we're not doing this forever. It's just a weekend. You think something really bad will happen today? We will head back afterwards," he said.

"... guess we'll see." Rain sighed again, glancing over at Lake and still talking quietly. "I just feel like we are running out of chances. The universe only gives you so many before it starts taking them back."

Fish chuckled, but after glancing at Rain and seeing how serious she looked, he realized this wasn't really a joke. "What, you believe in karma and destiny and all that?" he asked.

"No," Rain said. "What I believe is that there is only so long you can survive in the wilderness before something bad happens. And we've already had some pretty close calls, don't you think? What if Gavin hadn't been satisfied with the book? What if we hadn't made it off the ice? What if the lightning would have struck us instead of the trees?"

Fish hummed. "I don't know. I guess I try not to dwell too much on the 'what ifs.' I mean, yeah, wild bears freak me out, and so does drowning, and you know, dying of electrocution. But..." He sighed. "We didn't. We didn't die or get hurt. So what's the point in thinking about it? I don't know... I think I spent too long of my life thinking about those what if's too. Like, what if I did have a mom? What if I spent more time with you guys? What if I studied more, or worked on my magic more, or took a real interest in fishing? It seems exhausting to be in your head that much. I know I was. So I don't really think about it too much anymore."

By the time Fish had finished talking, he realized he had babbled more than he should have, and he snapped back to reality.

"Does that help?" he asked.

Rain sighed, looking at him tiredly. "None of that has anything to do with any of this. This is a very real, very new threat. And it doesn't feel like we're taking it seriously enough. This isn't just a game."

"No one said it was. Do you think it's a game?" Fish asked.

"I think it's a bad idea," she huffed. "And I think..." She sighed and shook her head. "Nevermind. Whatever."

"Hm? What?" Fish pried.

"I think the cold is getting to us all," she said quietly. "And I think we ought to do something about that before it sets in too thoroughly for us to be able to... I'm... already... y'know? It's not okay."

Fish glanced around the cavern. He didn't actually know what she meant. As far as he was concerned, they were always cold, and there wasn't really a way around that unless they warmed themselves up with their magic, but even that took energy.

"I don't think I'm following..." he admitted openly. "Are you feeling okay?"

"Are you?" she countered. "Are... are we really going to pretend that I'm the only one who's unhappy out here? That, what, am I the crazy one now? I should be feeling in my prime after all this?"

"Dude, we are all a little crazy and unhappy. You're not alone here," Fish said, almost deciding to smile, but then deciding against it when he realized that Rain was, like, really upset.

Did she really feel this strongly about all of this? He had his own reservations, sure, but he wouldn't have gone on the trip to begin with if he felt this way from the start. So, maybe, the feeling were - at least somewhat - manufactured along the way...?

"Is your new magic bothering you?" he guessed.

She furrowed her brow at him, then looked down at the snow under her. She lazily punched at it to make a little divet in the snow she could look at rather than at him. "I mean... yeah. Of course. I was never meant to... this... dis tew much."

Fish narrowed his eyes at her. He was no psychologist, but she was acting a little sus. He didn't blame her though. Things were starting to make sense now. If her magic were tied to her feelings, it'd make sense for her to be worried about how she felt. Rain and any sane person would want to minimize the negativity to not cause any harm.

"Yeah... I wish we could trade powers. I'm getting tired of hearing the dogs talk about treats all day. I think controlling the weather would be pretty cool," Fish said.

"Yeah..." She said lamely and punched the snow again so that she wouldn't have to look at him. "I don't know. I..." She sighed and shook her head. "Nevermind. I don't know. I'm just dumb."

"You're not dumb. If you were, I'd be really concerned since you're a teacher and all."

Rain snorted and rolled her eyes. "Oh, yes. That's definitely our biggest problem here."

"You know what is our biggest problem?" Fish huffed. "You not telling us that your new magic is bothering you so much. Why didn't you tell us earlier? We could have, I don't know, brain blast'ed our way to finding a solution like we always do."

"What's your solution?" Rain asked sourly. "Do tell."

Fish threw a breakfast bar at her. "Eat this in two bites."

"Wow. Revolutionary. Magic fixed," she said flatly, catching the bar but not opening it.

"It's called 'eating breakfast with you friends,' obviously," Fish said as he took out his own breakfast bar, this time going to eat it normally. "I mean, I don't know, I'm not an expert. But I would think that if your buds are what make you happy, then doing stuff together would help."

"I just want to go home," she said tiredly, pulling her knees up to her chest and pressing her forehead against them. "He can win. I don't even care anymore."

Fish thought she was going to elaborate, but when she didn't, he found himself more confused than he was at the start.

"Who? Me? Cheva?" he asked, even though Cheva was clearly a goddess.

Rain looked at him for a moment, expression looking like she had everything and nothing to say all at once, then she covered her face with both hands and rubbed it. "You know who. He's back in my head. Always in my head."

Fish was tempted to make a joke, but a little voice told him otherwise. The same voice also gave him the same picture in his head.

Rain was talking about her dad.

After a brief silence, he slid off the blankets to sit by her, not wanting to mess this up. All of them knew that Rain didn't have the best history with Lee. Fish had known for a long time. He remembered their adolescent days when Rain would vent about a bad fight or argument she had with her dad, but back then, Fish didn't really say or do much. He didn't really know what there was to say or do, really. And he still didn't have the answer - if there even was one. But now that they were all a little older, he was more receptive to what kind of abuse may be going on behind the scenes.

"I'm sorry, man. That sucks... Really, really sucks," he said with a sigh, deciding to just sit with her for a bit and see if she wanted to say anything else.

She leaned against him, shrinking a bit as if she was used to trying not to take up space when she felt like she did now. Despite Fish not being too familiar with intimacy, this didn't feel awkward or weird at all. He wrapped an arm around her back, patting it gently to make her feel better.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked.

"There's nothing to talk about," she said miserably, but didn't pull away. "It's just... you know? Like. He's not even here. It's not like he's actually doing anything. So. Like. Y'know? It's just dumb."

"I think that's called trauma, man. That's normal. Not dumb," Fish said.

"Okay, but, like." She sighed, frowning at the snow in front of her legs. "I don't know, dude. Like. My brain won't even let me have this one thing. It's like. He had to do it first, y'know? Like. Always one-upping me, no matter what I do. He's always done it first. Before it was cool."

"Yeah... that sounds pretty tiring. I'm not sure how he has any friends. I don't know how anyone can stand that," Fish said.

"Same," she agreed. "I don't know why your and Lake's dads like him. That was like... it was all of them. Like... my brain decided... I saw them all. Here."

Fish, again, waited for her to elaborate, and was once again confused when she didn't.

"Uh... huh," he said in agreement, not really sure what she was getting at. "Is that an analogy...?"

"What?" She glanced at him, then shook her head, sitting more upright. "No. It. Heh. No. Just a dumb dream I had last night, that it was our dads on this stupid quest instead of us."

Fish almost laughed. "What? Man, that sounds wild. Did Gavin also eat their map?"

"Nah." Rain cracked her back, straightening. "It was just the three of them alone in a tunnel like this. Walking. And then they came up on this huge icy door and couldn't figure out how to open it."

"That sounds... ominous," Fish said flatly. "And also random. And... honestly, kind of lame. I thought you were going to say that they saw Cheva and Cheva was Gavin."

Rain snorted loudly, half-cracking a smile before she wiped it back off her face again. "You're dumb."

Fish was pleased that he was at least able to make his friend smile, even if the joke was stupid. "Yeah. I accept it," he said through a little smile of his own. "Not sure why you dreamed of our dads. Kind of weird, to be honest. But thankfully it's just us."

"Yeah. Who knows." Rain shrugged. "I think my subconscious just likes... I don't know. It was random. Just... annoying. I shouldn't have to deal with both my dad being a dickhead and my magic trying to kill me and everyone I love, y'know? Ridiculous, really."

"Yeah, that's pretty rude. But, I mean..." Fish gestured around them. "I know you can't control your dreams, but out here, it's just us. So you don't have to worry about that as much out here."

"Yeah... just weird." Rain shrugged and stood up. "But whatever, I guess. With any luck we won't end up at a giant ice door that we're too dumb to open."

"How about we continue down the tunnel and find out, eh? What d'ya think?" Fish said as he playfully elbowed her side.

"Meh." She swatted him away. "May as well, I guess."

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soundofmind says...



Lake wasn't pleased with the still unresolved tension in the air, but things seemed to change a little after Fish talked with Rain. He always had a strange way of being able to calm her down in a way Lake never could. If Lake used reason, and the argument was about reason, that always worked. But when emotions got in the mix things just got messy, and Lake always felt at a loss. It wasn't like Fish was some kind of therapist-level friend... he just had a way of not making a big deal out of things.

In any case, things at least seemed a little more settled on Rain's end, which was good, and if she was feeling better, Lake was feeling better, and she was able to focus on the mission ahead of them instead.

The plan was to hike through the tunnel until "sundown" and if they didn't find anything by then, they'd take their chances turning around and going back out onto the lake. Was that Lake's favorite option? No. But she was starting to feel the pressure of her friends more and more. They weren't just being whiny to be whiny. Sure, there was nuance there.

But she could tell that they were genuinely scared. And that made her feel horrible in all sorts of ways she didn't even want to let herself think about.

So they trudged on.

The dogs seemed happy to not be pulling any weight besides their own, and they excitedly flitted about the tunnels, sometimes running ahead and then back, but never straying out of sight. Sometimes Fish would pause to speak with them, which was always odd, because it felt like listening in on one side of a conversation. Usually, though, Lake could fill in the blanks.

The dogs predictably talked a lot about food, how things smelled, and how they wanted to play. Or so it sounded.

As for the rest of them - you know, the humans - they talked sometimes, but really only when something came up to instigate conversation. Sometimes Lake would comment on the formations of ice around them, and marvel at how pretty it was. Sometimes Rain would comment on how cold it was (again). Sometimes Fish would comment on how hungry he was (perpetually).

Time felt like it passed by slower in the ice caves. The sun didn't reach in as much anymore, and the only thing lighting the ice was their flashlights. Lake had her flashlight headband on at all times, and stayed at the head of the group to lead. The icy ground below them got less snowy and slush and more matted as they went further in, eventually becoming as hard as rock, but just ice.

The chill in the air felt more prevalent in the still, enclosed tunnel. Lake had gotten used to the cloud of her own breath every time she pulled down her scarf to drink or eat. And every time, without fail, it would fog up her goggles.

She supposed she didn't need them on, though, so she settled them atop her head instead.

Infrequently, Lake would check the watch on her wrist and make note of the time. They stopped a few times to eat, rest, and take bathroom breaks, but otherwise kept a steady pace.

It was around 6:30pm when the tunnel took a sharp turn.

Hesitant, Lake motioned for the others to wait a moment as she went ahead to check what was around the corner. Fish said something unintelligible to the dogs and they clambered to a stop as Lake passed them.

Leaning in slowly, Lake peeked around the corner.

The tunnel opened up into a what looked more like an intentionally carved out hall, with a smooth, flat floor and what looked like ice pillars along the wall.

The hall didn't go very far before it led to... a door.

Eyes brightening and shooting wide open, Lake's whole face lit up with a smile.

"A door!" she exclaimed, glancing back at Fish and Rain, bouncing on her feet

Fish and Rain, however, seemed to hesitate. The two of them shared a wearied and shocked expressed as they exchanged a long look with one another.

"Come on!" Lake said with excitement as she swung herself around the corner, hurrying down the hall.

Her shoes slid on the slick ice, but Lake had anticipated as much, and with a controlled glide, spread out her stance and let her momentum carry her speedily all the way to the door. She shifted her feet to gradually skid to a stop just in front of it, and she stood up straight, staring.

The door was carved out of the ice.

She'd seen all sorts of ice sculptures in her time. Every winter, they'd have parties and festivals where ice sculptures occasionally made an appearance, and she'd seen some intricately carved statues, but this was on a different level than she'd ever seen before.

The door was huge, for one.

It looked at least eight feet tall, and maybe just as many feet wide. It had an arch that curved over it, with delicate patterned designs winding and swirling together. On the door, there were more carvings, but instead of patterns... it looked like some sort of script. Letters. Words. Symbols she didn't recognize, but she knew they had to mean something.

"Runes," she said under her breath as she reached out to touch one.

Fish finally reached the door, clearly not in any big hurry. It wasn't like they had been walking for a whole day to find something or anything.

"A door," he said in disbelief, looking back at Rain. "We really found... a door."

Rain was staring in disbelief, eyes flitting across it. "There's no freaking way."

Lake turned to face them, hand still resting on the door.

"Guys. This is very much real," she said.

"Yeah, we know, that's why we're freaking out," Fish said with a sigh. "Rain dreamed of our dads going down this tunnel and finding a door. And now we found a door too. That's why we're freaked out."

Lake blinked.

"What?" she asked with a tilt of her head. She looked to Rain. "You had a dream about it? That's so crazy. It must be a sign."

"That's... pff," she scoffed. "No. It was just a dream." She looked past her at the door. "A very, very weird dream."

"But was it this exact door you saw in the dream?" Lake pried. "And were our dads younger in the dream, like, around our age?"

"I mean..." Rain was quiet for a long moment, looking at the door in still very clear, visible disbelief. "... yeah."

"I had a dream two nights about about our dads too," Lake said, still looking back and forth between her friends and the door excitedly.

"You dreamed of our dads too?" Fish said in disbelief.

"Yeah!" Lake said. "They were out in the snow, like we were, except like, I don't know, it had to have been before we were born. So, at least twenty-something years ago. They were literally talking about looking for Cheva in the dream. And your dad was all soft and baby-faced, and he had the book too!"

Fish looked more disturbed than anything. "This is too big of a coincidence, but..." He aggresively shook his head. "I don't get it. What do our dads have to do with any of this?"

Lake looked back up at the door.

Without any announcement, she attempted to push it, since there was no door handle or knob.

It didn't budge. It felt like it was locked.

"I don't know," she said. "Maybe they found something down here when they were young that they had to keep a secret."

She tried pushing again. It still wouldn't even creak. She didn't even know how thick the door was.

"I don't think you can just bully it open," Rain said thoughtfully. "At least. I mean. The dream was just a dream. But. Like--"

Before Rain could finish, Lake had pulled out her pickaxe. Stepping out of range of Rain and Fish, she started to spin it before she lifted up to strike.

"STOP!" Rain shouted.

"Wait wait WAIT!" Fish said at the same time.

Lake pulled her swing and just barely missed, instead, hitting the icy ground in front of her. It chipped and ice dust flew in her face.

Spitting, she huffed as she stood back up straight.

"Dear Cheva. Haven't you ever seen any movie or video game? Destroying the door is not the way," Fish said with a huff.

"It was worth a shot!" Lake defended.

"I literally just said that wouldn't work!"

Lake groaned and looked back at the door.

"None of you speak ancient ice goddess, do you?" she asked.

"No, but apparently you both can dream up some wacky stuff about our dads that may or may not have happened," Fish said.

"And your dad definitely tried that," Rain said. "If the dream is real, y'know?"

Fish snorted. "Okay. Now the dream got more believeable."

"Like father like daughter," Rain agreed.

Lake pouted.

"Okay, well, did they open the door in the dream?" Lake asked.

"No." Rain shook her head. "I woke up before that -- they were still trying to figure it out. They thought there were clues or something to all these runes."

"So the dream ended right after they found the door too," Fish said blandly. "That's great."

"Inconvenient," Lake said, looking up and down at the runes covering the door. "But... They made it this far and got out. We're alive as testament to that. If they were able to figure it out, we can too."

Fish stared at the runes too, reaching his hand out to touch it. His brows were furrowed and he looked like he was either deep in thought, or disturbed. Maybe both.

"Don't raise your hopes, because I still don't know anything, but..." He traced his finger around a rune carving. "It's like... I don't know. Weirdly familiar to me. My dad used to show me weird symbols and mythology stuff when I was younger. I didn't really think anything of it, but... I think I recognize some of it."

Rain let a silence hang in the air before she got impatient and gave him a little shove. "Then what does it mean?"

"Man, I don't know what it means, but..." He pointed at one rune. "That one means magic. That's all I remember right now. Maybe if I stare at it long enough it'll come to me..."

Rain sighed impatiently and stepped backward from the door to get a better look at it. "Well... then get to staring. There are a lot of runes..."

Fish eyed Lake. "Okay, but only if I don't get pick-axe'd."

"I'll withhold the pick-axe-ing for now," Lake said with a huff. She folded her arms and stepped back, giving Fish space to think.

And apparently, he needed a lot of time to think. After some engagement in conversation to help try to rev his memory, he was finally able to piece together a few words.

After two hours.

They'd written them down on a piece of paper for record keeping so they could attempt to get the story straight. Or whatever it was.

All they was: Prophecy. Magic. Fire. Together.

Ominous and vague, but... at least it was something. If only they had a key.

"Yup, that's all I got," Fish said as he flopped to the floor, tired. "I don't think any more staring can get any more words out of me. Sorry."

Lake sighed, checking her watch again.

8:33pm.

"This could mean anything," Lake said. The words were so far apart from each other on the door. They had no way of knowing what was in the gaps to fill in the necesary context.

Visibly spent, Fish laid down on the icy floor with his arms folded behind his back. "Magic and fire is obvious. Maybe we burn down the door together?"

"I feel like if our dads did that to get through, the door wouldn't still be here, you know?" Lake said, sitting down beside him.

"Good point," Fish hummed, pausing for a second. "What would prophecy even mean?"

"Are you sure it's not the verb?" Lake asked. "Like prophesy. Maybe we have to prophesy it open."

She knew how stupid that sounded the moment she said it.

"Nevermind," she said quickly.

Still, Fish entertained it. "Maybe. I'm no expert. Maybe we have to will it to open with our fire magic... together. I dunno."

"So we should all just shoot fire at it?" Lake asked.

She glanced back at Rain.

"I mean, we could give it a shot," she said, already prepping her hand.

"Wait," Fish said, always pulling Lake back any time she was ready to destroy something. "In your dream, you said my dad had the book that we lost. I'm not saying that I believe in destiny or any of that crap, but it feels really uncanny that the book was the reason we're all doing this. I don't know. Just makes me think since prophecies are about that kind of stuff."

"Except we don't have the book," Lake said plainly. "Not--not that I'm--I know why, I'm just. Saying."

"I mean... I think the whole..." Rain sighed, clearly forcing herself not to say whatever it was that she was about to say. "We all know how my dreams are. But. Well. Fischer was reading from the book and talking about a prophecy of children with, uh... restoring the magic. With... water... and beast... and..." She squinted, trying to remember the last one. "...sky?"

"You're saying my dad recited a prophecy? About water, animals, and skies?" Fish said, still in disbelief.

"Dude," Lake said, feeling a chill down her spine. "That's... literally the kinds of magic we have now."

"That's literally our names," Fish mumbled.

"My name is not any of those things," Rain scoffed. "What, water? Wouldn't that be Lake?"

"Rain comes from the sky, dummy," Fish said with a little shove.

"And lakes have water," Lake said. "And a fish is..."

She snorted.

"A beast, I guess," she said trying to hold back laughter.

"Very funny. I'm so fearsome," Fish dead-panned.

"Oh!" Lake jumped, but jokingly. "You scared me!"

Fish rolled his eyes. "Okay, but - prophecy. It's kind of freaking me out over here that we're finding out Rain dreamed of our dads talking about a prophecy, and these runes also say prophecy. What does this all mean?"

"Maybe we're the chosen ones," Lakes said, half serious, but also half joking.

Fish let out a long, loud groan. "Please, Cheva, if you exist, don't make me the main character," he mumbled.

"None of this is getting the door open," Rain said with a weary sigh.

And she was right.

Lake looked to the door. Regardless of any prophecy, they were going to be stuck at the door if they couldn't figure out a way through. Sure, maybe they were part of a prophecy - but what were they supposed to do with fire? And were their dads part of the prophecy? "Together" could mean anything, but if the prophecy was about a group, it probably was just talking about the group of people in the prophecy doing something together.

And "magic" was practically useless without context.

Of course "magic" was written on the ominous, magical-looking door.

"You know what," Lake said. "How about..."

She looked down at her watch. How was it already 9pm? She looked back down the hall, and the dogs had already all curled up in a dog pile. They were asleep.

"How about we try this in the morning when we're less tired," Lake said. "We've had a lot to process, here. Let's uh... get some rest."

"Oh thank god. I'm at negative brainpower after all that thinking and remembering," Fish said, unmoved from when he initially laid down.

Rain flopped onto the ground, lazily grabbing her blanket. She tossed Fish his blanket and sleeping bag before she pulled the blanket over herself.

"The morning," she echoed. "We try again then. But if we can't open it, then we go back?"

Lake pressed her lips together, looking up at the door.

They'd made it this far. They found a freaking magical ice-door in the middle of nowhere in the glaciers. Surely it had to mean something. It didn't make sense to turn back now. They were just one the precipice of discovery.

But... they were reaching the end of the trip. At least, when she'd said it would end, and she knew Rain and Fish had lives back home to return to. Jobs. Family. And they wanted to get back alive, not turn into little popsicles out by the lake, where no one would come looking for them.

Well, maybe someone would come looking for them. But it'd be too late.

She sighed deeply.

"Sure," she said softly. "Yeah. If we can't open it in the morning, we'll go back."

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Shady says...



Prophecy.

Magic.

Fire.

Together.

Rain sighed and rubbed her face, closing her eyes as she tried to calm her breathing and force her body to relax. She felt herself getting agitated again. And she needed to not do that. That would do absolutely nothing whatsoever to improve the situation and would, in fact, make things much, much worse.

No.

She needed to be calm. Rational. Collected.

That was her job: strategize them out of whatever hole they had perpetually fallen into, together. It seemed like it was one after another, trouble after trouble, from the time they were tiny children up through now. And, sure. This was the biggest hole they'd fallen into. Ever. The deepest, iciest, awful-est hole.

But they were together.

And they'd gotten out of 100% of the other holes they'd fallen into up to this point. Together. So they'd get out of this one, too. They just had to be patient and think through this rather than go charging head-first into their demise.

Gods weren't something you could rush. She was almost certain of that.

So, what did they know? What clues did they have? She needed to start there.

Prophecy. Magic. Fire. Together.

Rain sighed. That wasn't much to go off of at all. She was going to need a bigger hint. The dream? That seemed like a load of nonsense. It wasn't like gods actually spoke to you through your dreams. Obviously. It wasn't like she was some type of oracle or... or... whatever.

But, well. God. At this point, may as well pretend like it was useful. If they were following a not-magical magical book for a hypothetical prophecy, may as well add in a crackhead dream, right? Right.

So. What were the details from that? Fischer. She needed to remember what he said.

We know it's a prophecy about children of the water, sky, and beast restoring the magic.

The dads had clearly thought the prophecy was about them.

Lake clearly thought it was about the three of them laying here in the ice cave together now.

So who was right? Were any of them? Was this prophecy even real in the first place? Or were they all delirious with cold and hallucinating this whole thing? Maybe Rain had fallen asleep in her car and this was all the fumes from her exhaust giving her a wild dream. Or... or...

Gods.

Maybe this was real.

And if it was, gods have mercy on all of their souls.

They weren't heroes.

The very thought of that was beyond absurd. It was... She snorted to herself softly as she briefly entertained the idiotic thought. Heros. Her and her buds. Out on a foolish, foolish quest to go restore the magic of Chevan.

She opened her eyes.

That was ridiculous. She couldn't honestly believe that. She couldn't. It was too absurd. Far fetched. She glanced over at her friends, though, feeling unsure of herself. There were signs that pointed towards this being real, even though she really, really didn't want to believe it. Which made her feel crazy. And it made her feel even crazier that her friends were bought in.

Maybe... maybe she needed to just... suspend the skepticism for a minute. Only one. Someone had to be pragmatic about this, or they were all screwed. But. Well. It was hard to do that alone. And she was feeling the need to have her friends on her side again. The conflict was wearing on her. So maybe they just needed to meet in the middle -- call a truce -- and remember that they were friends first above quest-ers. And... talk through it, she guessed. Or. Rather. To listen.

They were all doing a lot of talking and not a lot of listening and look where it'd gotten them: in front of a huge mysterious door that no one knew how to open, with nothing to go off of other than two dreams and the memory of a hypothetically magical book that a talking bear named Gavin stole.

She shook the thought off. No. No. She was going to... do better. She was determined. Meet in the middle. Truce. She glanced over at her friends to try to assess whether they were still awake or not.

Lake was lying on her back, staring at the ceiling. Her forehead flashlight was still on.

Rain squinted at her, trying to see if her eyes were still open or not. She could make out a blink. She took a deep breath, trying to think of how to phrase any of the hundred million things running through her mind just then. But instead, she settled for a lame whisper of, "Are you awake?"

"Hmm?" Lake hummed, turning to look at her. In turn, the light on her forehead flashed in Rain's direction.

She winced, putting her hand up to try to block the light with a groan.

"Oh, oops," Lake mumbled, reached up and turning the light off, plunging them into darkness. "Sorry. What's up?"

Rain was quiet for a moment, still not sure what to say. There was... too much that needed to be said, and yet nothing at all to say, at the exact same time. She took a deep breath, trying to distill her thoughts. "... do you think the dreams are actually a clue somehow?"

"I mean, they seemed to be awfully conveninent," Lake said. "And well-timed. Like, it feels like they're aligning with our location, too. Not that two dreams technically counts as a pattern, but my dream looked like it'd happened close to us, and you said yours was in these same tunnels, right? It's a crazy coincidence."

"Yeah..." Rain agreed. "I mean... it'd make sense for our brains to place the context of the dreams where we are in real life... but... it... I don't know. It feels... ominous... that I dreamed about the door before we saw it."

"Prophetic, even," Lake said.

"... I wish I wouldn't have woken up," Rain murmured. "What's the good in seeing our fathers struggling with a door if we don't know how they made it through?"

"I mean, at least it kind of... gives me hope, I guess," Lake said. "That we're doing something right."

"Yeah... do you think... like, it'd be crazy if they actually were here before us. They... that can't be... real. They'd have, like, told us. They wouldn't just let us go off on a quest like a bunch of fools if they'd already tried it and failed."

Lakes was quiet for a moment.

"Maybe that's why they let us go," Fish spoke up, sounding sleepy, but awake. "I didn't think my dad would. I was surprised when he did."

"Okay, but like..." Rain glanced over at him, surprised he was awake. Even though she supposed she shouldn't be, since he wasn't snoring like he usually did if he was asleep. "Why wouldn't they have mentioned it to us? Like 'hey guys, you're gonna run into a magical door, here's the code--' or something you know?"

"Maybe because they'd have to explain how they know all that," Lake hypothesized. "Maybe it's some deep dark secret kind of thing. Not that I like that idea."

"But..." Rain sighed, furrowing her brow as she glared up at the ceiling overhead, even though she could barely make it out as anything but a dark mass overhead for the darkness that had settled in around them. "It'd be insane to let your kid go off halfcocked without giving them a heads' up if you knew, right? I mean, my father would let me do that. But, actually come to think of it, I didn't tell him I was coming. But your dads wouldn't do that. And they both knew."

"Maybe... they just had faith in us?" Fish said with little conviction.

"My dad does have the propensity to be a little empty-headed sometimes," Lake mumbled quietly.

Rain sighed. "They had to have at least an idea of what we were about to do."

"Maybe when I see my dad again I'll grill him about it," Lake said with a sigh. "But it's not like he's here to help us now."

"Yeah," Rain agreed flatly, closing her eyes again and taking another deep breath. "All on our own."

"He did give me his pickaxe, though," Lake said. "He made a whole moment out of that. Maybe it means something."

"... does it have any runes on it?" Rain said after a moment. "Like... does it line up with anything on the door?"

Lake hummed, and Rain could hear a clink against ice as Lake must've pulled it out.

"Doesn't look like it," Lake said sadly.

"Hm." Well, that wasn't helpful whatsoever. She sighed. "Was worth a shot."

"Do you think our dads actually found Cheva?" Fish asked out of the blue.

"If she's behind the door, then, probably?" Lake said. "I'm sure hoping she's through the door. Or at least, a way out. Because they did get out."

"I guess it is suspicious that they didn't tell us of any of this, if it even happened. But maybe... I don't know, if it's a real prophecy..." Fish sighed. "Maybe we're the prophecy kids, and for some reason they couldn't tell us? Like, are we meant to do all of this?"

"So, what?" Rain mused. "You think our fathers found Cheva and she was like 'jk go have kids' and... then they just had to wait a few decades for us to grow up?"

"I don't know, man. It's just weird. Why would they even find Cheva? It's not like magic was dying back then," Fish said.

"You guys never really paid attention to the old folk tales, huh," Lake said.

"What do you mean?" Fish asked.

"Well, back in YE OLDE DAYS, there was this old folk tale about Cheva. My grandma used to tell it to me a lot when I was a kid. Basically, there was this whole belief that if you managed to find Cheva, the hiding goddess, she'd grant you one wish. Kind of like a genie, except not. It's a one and done type deal. And then after that she supposedly... whisks you off to your home in a flurry of ice and snow. Magically and all," Lake explained. "Maybe they all hit a low point or something and thought finding Cheva was the only way? Or maybe they hit a really high point instead, like they all got really hyped about it. I don't know."

"So... you're saying... our dads tried to find Cheva so she could grant their wishes. And then they got their wish," Fish processed out loud.

"Maybe," Lake said. "This was before magic started dying and we had this endless winter."

"That tracks, actually," Rain said thoughtfully. "Your dad was saying it was my father's fault that they'd set out, which... is... not like him. To go be the hero. But if there was something in it for him, like a wish... you might be on to something there."

"Okay, but what do their wishes have to do with us?" Fish asked.

"I mean, I don't know what my dad would've wished for," Lake said. "What did your dad wish for?"

"How would I know? I didn't even know my dad was friends with your dads," Fish said with frustration in his voice.

Rain thought about it for a long moment. What would her father have wished for? That was a hard question. It didn't seem like anything would make that man happy aside from wealth and adoration. But, well, why would he settle for being mayor of a town as tiny as Chevan if he got a wish granted to him by the goddess herself? That didn't seem like him. "... do you suppose they got them? Granted, I mean?"

"This is making my head hurt," Fish said instead.

"Okay, but, like..." She let out a little sigh. "I don't know. If they could have anything in the world... would they still be who they are now? Or did she tell them to get lost?"

"I mean... sometimes, wishes don't always turn out how you think they will," Lake said. "You see it all the time in fiction."

"So you think Cheva corrupted their wishes somehow?" Rain mused.

"Either on purpose or not," Lake said. "Maybe they just didn't pan out like they imagined. Sometimes we think we know what we want... and then when we get it realize it's not what we imagined."

"So do you think we can ask for wishes if we see Cheva?" Fish asked, then turned to his side to get comfortable. "I'd like to wish for a buffet and a teleporter home."

Rain considered it for a long moment. What would she even ask for, if they did hypothetically get the opportunity? She didn't have the foggiest idea. She wasn't the wish upon a shooting star type. She didn't have a wish prepped and ready to go at the drop of a hat. But. Well. What would she want, if it was hypothetically possible to get anything at all? "... I wish everyone could be safe and happy."

"That's a nice wish," Lake said softly.

"Dang," Fish said with a hint of sleepiness in his voice. "You made my wish look bad."

Rain smiled a little. "I feel like the wishes are complementary: you can be happy with your buffet, safe at home."

Fish sighed, in thought. "Well, I wouldn't actually wish that. But I don't really know what I'd wish for, honestly. Unlike Lake, I don't think I'd go out of my way to restore magic, which is a wish if you think about it. But if I had to pick one now... I'd wish to have some kind of purpose so I can help a lot of people. Something like that."

"Huh..." Rain scratched her chin, considering that. "I wonder if that was my father's wish or something like that? Like... what if I am the corruption to his wish? And he like... I don't know, blames me for him not getting it? Maybe... maybe he could have done something if he didn't have to deal with being a father?"

"No idea, man. Guess we'll have to open the door and find out," Fish said.

"I don't know if I would make a wish," Lake said quietly.

"Why not?" Fish asked.

"I don't know... if they didn't work out for our fathers, who's to say they'd work out for us?" Lake said. "I wouldn't want to make anything worse than it already is."

"Wouldn't restoring magic count as a wish, though?" Fish said.

"Yeah," Rain agreed. "Isn't that, like, literally the reason we're here right now?"

Lake sighed.

"I guess that'd be my wish, then," she mumbled.

"Too bad we can't pre-wish our wish," Rain mused. "Or we could just wish we could get past this door. In one piece. And any other disclaimer needed to be sure our wish was fulfilled like we intend, y'know?"

"Adding that many qualifiers sounds exhausting," Lake said sleepily. "I want Cheva to be nice. Can't she just be nice? I'll be nice to her."

Apparently not. Rain kept that thought to herself. But clearly Cheva couldn't just be nice -- otherwise why would she have three idiot mortals coming to rescue her? No. This was all... her fault, really. Cheva.

But, Rain was slowly becoming more and more convinced that she actually existed. And that she may (or may not) be close. So, probably best not to be talking smack about her. Especially since it seemed like her friends were starting to fade fast, which meant she'd be alone in the dark. No need to spook herself.

A brief silence filled the empty air, but it was interrupted by Fish's gradual snoring. He must have began dozing off to sleep. Rain knew she should at least try going to sleep now, otherwise the snoring would be too loud and it would be impossible to sleep then. She sighed and closed her eyes. There was always time for fretting in the morning.

lol jokes on u count urself if u wanna stalk

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"From the fish mother to the fish death god." - lehmanf
"A fish stole my identity. I blame shady" - Omni
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Carina says...



    "That's the dumbest idea I have ever heard," Lee said, his voice younger than normal.

    This must be another dad dream. Lee, Fischer, and Keigan were sitting in front of the same giant door, visibly frustrated.

    "C'mon, Lee. Have a little faith. Magic runs through our veins after all, don't it?" Fischer said with a smug grin, getting up on his feet to rummage through his giant bag. "What do you think, Keigs? Think showing off our magic oughta do the trick?"

    "That seems to be what the door says to do," Keigan said with a bright smile. He put his hands on his hips and cleared his throat, vocalizing some trills, like he was warming up to sing.

    "Mmm-hmm. See Lee, we gotta listen to the door. We're fools trying to read the runes, but instead we just gotta [i]see
    the runes." Fischer whipped out his banjo, sliding the casing off and dusting it off. "Don't you see that the drawings there mean the door wants to be entertained?"

    "Are you listening to yourself?" Lee scoffed. "Someone drew a picture about a bored door?" He sighed but was stretching to loosen himself up for the dance that he knew he was going to get bullied into.

    "Come on, Lee," Keigan sing-songed. "Just a little show!"

    At that, Fischer started to trill away at his banjo, itching to start.

    Lee looked at him irritably and huffed another sigh. "Fine. Get on with it, then."

    "Take it away, Fish!" Keigan said with a sweeping motion of his arms.

    And just like that, Fischer started to wildly pluck away at his banjo. Keigan immediately sprung on the opportunity to test his vocals, feeling the rhythm.

    "Some BODY once told me the WORLD was gonna roll me--" Keigan started to sing, surprisingly well, but still goofily.

    Fischer, surprised that they were playing the All Star theme song, grinned and adapted right away, strumming his banjo to the tempo.

    Lee grudgingly bobbed along with the beat, finding his rhythm as he tapped his toes along with the beat. He finally swayed into ridiculous dance. He had his brow furrowed at first, maintaining his dignified, resentful persona, but the faintest flash of a smile cracked through before he wiped it off again and kept dancing with more gusto.

    As the three of them sang, danced, and strummed, fire started to emanate around them. Since the three of them were channeling all of their energy into the song rather than concentrating on the magic, fire wasn't supposed to be generated. But the door seemed to creak and groan, and the fire was conjured anyways, lining the carvings of the runes. Steam built up until it was concentrated around the area and it became harder to breathe.

    "It's workin'! Don't stop!" Fischer bellowed out, trying his best to be in tune as he continued to strum the banjo.

    Lee actually put some effort into his little jig, dancing around with more energy than he'd showed the rest of the trip combined.

    "IT'S A COOL PLACE, AND THEY SAY IT GETS COLDER! YOU'RE BUNDLED UP NOW WAIT 'TIL YOU GET OLDER! BUT THE MEDIA MEN BEG TO DIFFER, JUDGING FROM THE HOLE IN THE SATELLITE PICTURE!" Keigan continued to belt out.

    As Keigan sang, the dream started to fade into white, letting the music fade with it. After a few seconds, more voices could be heard, sounding warbled at first, but then the dream focused on the dads again. It appeared that they were in a different place now. At first glance, it looked like an icy palace with beautiful icy carvings across the ceiling and walls. The ceilings were high and there were floating white orbs emanating light.

    Fischer, Lee, and Keigan were also standing in front of a blinding amount of light, but they appeared unaffected. It was hard to tell if they were actually in front of light, or if the dream didn't picture whatever it was they were in front of.

    In the light, however, was an outline of a tall woman dressed in white silky robes. She spoke, but it came out distorted.

    "I wish to meet the love of my life," Fischer said.

    "I wish to have a happy family," Keigan said.

    "I wish to be wealthy and successful," Lee said.

    The bright white enveloped them again, and the dream ended.[/i]

Fish woke up with bleary eyes, blinking back the light from the dream that attacked his eyeballs. He had no way to gauge the time. Was it morning? Night? Was it...

Slowly, so slowly, Fish sat up.

Did he... also have a dream about their dads? And it was about opening the door? This was feeling very, very freaky. Fish couldn't explain it. But he also knew he couldn't ignore it.

And he was not going back to sleep. He had to tell Rain and Lake. Now.

In the darkness, Fish patted the grounds next to him, trying to find the flashlight. When he found it, he fiercely stood up and turned it on, shining it towards Rain and Lake at full brightness.

"Hey, Lake. Rain. Wake up!" he said urgently, not caring if they got annoyed.

Rain huffed and pulled the blankets over her head. "I just fell asleep." Thunder rumbled in the distance.

"I just dreamed of our dads. I think I know how to open the door," Fish said, cutting right to the chase.

Her blanket lowered and she peered over it suspiciously, squinting. "...how?"

Fish didn't want to repeat himself. He nudged Lake with his foot. "Hey. Lake. Wake up!" he said.

Lake jerked awake, throwing her fists.

"WH-WH-WHA?!?!" she slurred as she shot up, looking around, only to see Fish and Rain.

"Oh," she said, clicking on the light on her forehead, lighting up the little hall. "What?"

"I dreamed of our dads. I saw them open the door. They..." Fish grimaced to prepare for the next cringey words out of his mouth. "... entertained it, using their fire magic triggers."

Rain sighed and rolled her eyes, slumping back against the wall. "What, we need to start telling jokes? Door puns?"

"You mean... like our regular magic?" Lake asked, rubbing her eyes. "With a regular fire spell?"

"Lee danced. Keigan sang. My dad played his banjo," Fish said simply. "These are all their fire magic triggers."

"He does not dance--" Rain talked over him, glaring at him.

"They played All Star by Smashmouth," Fish continued to dead-pan.

"I'm going back to sleep." Rain huffed again, pissily pulling the blankets up around her shoulders again. "I thought you were being serious."

"I am," Fish huffed, lightly kicking her foot over the blankets. "It's stupid, I know. But I swear I dreamed it, and the door opened."

"Well, if Rain's dream came true, it's worth a shot," Lake said sleepily.

"This is going to be so stupid. What do I do? Hum a deep note?" Fish said.

"You could do that," Lake said. "Or we could like, pick a song, and you could say the words and follow along with me as I sing, just like, a deep monotone or something."

Fish slowly stared over at Rain, trying to imagine her dancing to All Star. He couldn't decide if the thought was cursed or not.

"And Rain dances," he said slowly. "That's it then?"

"I'm not dancing," she said sourly.

"Come on, Rain," Lake cooed. "It's just a little dance. And if it doesn't work, we'll go back to the normal plan."

"To be fair, I will never unsee Lee dancing in my head. So it can't be worse than that," Fish said.

"Was he that bad?" Lake asked.

"Honestly, he wasn't even bad. It was just... so weird to see."

"He doesn't dance," Rain insisted. "That's a me-thing not a him-thing. He doesn't have magic."

"Dude, we all have magic," Fish said. "Maybe he just never shows it."

Rain snorted and crossed her arms.

"That's true," Lake said. "Everyone has magic. Some people just decide not to learn how to do it or just don't want to. Maybe Lee doesn't like dancing?"

"You're splitting hairs," Rain muttered.

"Okay, it doesn't matter. Point is, I saw our dads do their magic thing, and it worked," Fish said. "Apparently the door was entertained enough."

"Was that all?" Lake asked.

Fish hesitated. He was so focused on the here and now that he almost forgot about the scene afterwards. He took a deep breath.

"No," he admitted. "I mean, I saw the runes light up with fire and steam was everywhere, so I assume the door opened, but I didn't actually see it physically open. Because afterwards, they were in this icy palace room, and there was a really, really bright light. I think it was a woman. Maybe Cheva. Because..."

He knew he was sounding ridiculous, but this whole weekend was ridiculous. Fish was getting numb to it at this point.

"Our dads made their wishes," Fish continued. "My dad wished to meet the love of his life. Keigan wished for a happy family. Lee wished for wealth and success."

Rain snorted, rolling her eyes. "Of course he did... that tracks anyhow." She grudgingly pushed herself to her feet, warily looking over at the door. "So, what? We dance and then make a wish?"

"I think we just sing and dance until the door does open. What happens after that... I'm not sure. But maybe we could make a wish, sure," Fish said.

"We'll figure it out as we go, but let's do it," Lake said, getting to her feet. She started stretching and doing lip trills. It was giving Fish dejavu, and he shook his head to shake away the uncanny feeling. He was just glad he didn't have to take out a random banjo and be like his dad. That would be weird.

"What song?" he asked.

Lake hummed as she interlocked her fingers and stretched out her arms.

"How about an old classic," she said. "Everybody knows All Star."

Fish groaned. Loudly.

"You are literally your dad," he grumbled.

Lake abruptly stopped stretchin and turned to face him, her forehead flashlight blinding him in the process.

"What's that supposed to mean?" she asked.

Fish closed his eyes and flinched back from the light, lifting up a hand to shield his eyes. "I'm just saying. First the pickaxe, and then this. It's weird, man."

"You're weird," she shot back. "Now are you guys gonna do this or not?"

Fish sighed. "Yeah, sure, let's do it."

"Whatever," Rain grumbled, cracking her neck as she stretched her shoulders.

"Okay," Lake said. "I'll start us out. Fish, jump in and Rain give us some moves."

Rain sighed but nodded, clearly ready to start dancing once she had the tunes.

Clearing her throat, Lake stood up straight and faced the door, and the light of her flashlight illuminated the icy runes.

"Somebody once told me the world was gonna roll me!" she started to sing, sounding like she really was trying her best to sing seriously and with quality. "I ain't the sharpest tool in the sheeeeeeeed!"

If Fish wasn't the one who dreamed their dads doing this, he may have been more hesitant to even try this. But he was curious on what was behind that door, and he was willing to give up a little bit of his pride and dignity try it.

As if they were singing an acapella song, Fish hummed a low, deep note while Lake sang the lyrics.

"She was lookin' kinda dumb with her fiiinger and her thumb in the SHAPE of an L--" of course, Lake did the L-- "On her FORE HEAD!"

Rain very slowly started swaying as they started singing and humming, looking like she felt absolutely ridiculous and very clearly only giving it a half-hearted effort. But as Lake kept singing Rain slowly started coming to life and actually putting effort into it.

Slowly but surely, the runes on the door began to glow. At first, the light was a bright white, then blue, and then something ignited. The runes burst with bright flames illuminating them, and then a small flame erupted at the bottom of the door, where it met the wall.

Lake started to sing with more excitement and fervor. Fish faltered for a moment there, but he took Lake's lead and continued to drone out the low bass notes. Rain froze, staring at it in surprise.

"Keep dancing, Rain!" Fish hissed between a pause. Lake nudged her for good measure.

"Oh!" Rain shook herself and quickly, awkwardly stepped back into the dance, actually making a full effort now.

The fire fizzled along the crack of the door, along the arch, all the way to the other side. As they reached the chorus of the song, the fire went from red, to orange, to blue, and the light seemed to fill the whole hall. Fish could hear the dogs yapping, exclaiming in awe and in fear at the sudden burst of light.

Then, the door groaned open.
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