They searched in buildings. They searched in fields. They peered into people's houses. And they bickered an awful lot. Hours upon hours have passed and Midnight and Oliver feel like they're no closer to finding Jakkson, Amaranth, or Phantom than they ever were before.
Midnight is genuinely frightened, though she doesn't dare show that to Oliver. If she didn't actually care for Jakkson, she wouldn't be so concerned about his safety. Now she's worried. What if she never sees him again? What if he and Amaranth have escaped to some distant land - or worse, what if they've been harmed? She's only days away from elderhood. She needs an heir or the Overlord legacy dies. If she never finds Amaranth, everything crumbles.
Oliver's stomach has been twisting into knots for hours. Everything has gone all wrong, and he feels completely guilty for even suggesting this idea. He wouldn't put it over Jakkson to flee to an entirely different city with Amaranth, trying to run to somewhere Midnight would never find them. Worst of all, that blasted fool of a werewolf left his cell phone at the castle, so there's no way Oliver can contact him to let him know it's all safe.
Oliver: "Why are you asking me? I know as much about this as you do. I vote that we check an indoor location next. My skin is frying..."
Midnight: "Didn't Jakk give you any idea of where he was going?"
Oliver: "Midnight. For the thousandth time. No."
Midnight: "Don't be snippy with me, Oliver. The last thing I need right now is an attitude from you. We may be working together, but you're still my subordinate."
Oliver: "Yeah, yeah."
Midnight: "...I think we're going to have to split up for this, as much as I hate doing so. I'll go back east and try to check some locations we haven't checked, maybe recheck some others. I want to believe Phantom's still floating around out there, then he can help us look."
Midnight: "Yes. Unlike that bone-headed pup, we actually brought our phones, so we can contact each other."
Oliver: "What if either of us finds Jakk and Amaranth, but not Phantom?"
Midnight: "...Send Jakk and Amaranth home. That way they're safely there while we keep looking for Phantom. Every time I call that dolt, he never answers his phone. Do you suppose he left it too?"
Oliver: "I think he brought it. It's...unnerving that he's not answering."
Parting ways, Midnight and Oliver continue their desperate search for their missing housemates. They can only pray nothing has happened to them. While both are terribly concerned for Jakk and Amaranth, secretly they're equally concerned about Phantom. What if harm has come to the fairy? As much as he drives Midnight bonkers, she still shudders at the thought of someone tormenting...or killing...the most innocent soul in the world.
Oliver quickens his step. Why, oh, why did he let Midnight send Phantom out to search? Why couldn't he have volunteered to go looking instead? Every moment seems to be getting worse than the first. What if they're entirely too late?
Jakkson and Amaranth have been hiding in their little forest for a couple of days now. If they push on further, they'll be out of town and on their way to a town called Riverview. Jakkson's hesitant to wander out of Moonlight Falls. He's never been anywhere else, and while he might be more adventurous alone, he can't risk going along an unknown path with his young daughter with him.
Jakkson can tell Amaranth's been uncomfortable, but she's been a trooper, taking everything well. At this point, Jakkson's not sure what to do. Surely they can't stay there forever. They'll need to find some place to live - Phantom's supplies won't last forever. But they can't go home, can they? Jakkson desperately hopes Oliver and Phantom are okay. The chip in his neck hasn't released the pain yet.
A strong wind blows against the weary souls. Amaranth crouches by Jakkson to take cover from it. Jakkson holds still, a scent blowing across his face. Even in human form, he has a powerful sense of smell, thanks to the wolf bite.
Something's unusual about this scent, though.
Amaranth: "What is it, Woofie?"
Jakkson: "It's...pixie dust and...and vanilla. Smells like....Phantom."
Amaranth: "Oh! Is Bizzie close by?"
Jakkson: "Not terribly close by. Maybe...maybe a few miles away. But there's something else, something weird mixed in with it. Almost smells like...."
Suddenly startled by the realization, Jakkson quickly turns to Amaranth. His stomach twists into a knot. He surely can't bring Amaranth with him. But...can he really leave her here by herself?
Jakkson: "I...yes, honey, I did. It's...something I need to go attend to."
Amaranth: "Okay. Where are we going now?"
Jakkson: "...I have to go alone, Amaranth. Now listen to me very seriously. I will go and be back as fast as I possibly can. You need to stay here. Do not wander off anywhere. Do you understand me?"
Amaranth: "Yes, but..."
Jakkson: "Do not go anywhere. Stay by these rocks. If you feel uncomfortable or if you notice someone coming toward you, you hide behind those rocks or in the bushes. Don't let anyone know you're here. I promise, Amaranth, I will be back as fast as I can."
Amaranth: "...Okay, Woofie. But...please be careful and come back fast. I don't want to be here without you."
Phantom blinks his eyes awake. His head still feels a little woozy. What on earth was in that perfume the gypsy asked him to smell? What'd he call it again? Chloroform? Phantom makes a mental note never to sniff that crap again. He doesn't know how it's supposed to make people feel, but he certainly knows his system can't handle it.
Phantom's next thought is how cold he is. It feels like ice is pressed against his body. He glances down and notices his shirt is gone. In fact, he's in swimming trunks. He finds this very disturbing. He doesn't own a pair of swimming trunks, because he hates swimming. Whose swimming trunks are these? And who in the world put him in them? Why, they'd have to completely undress him to do so. Phantom shudders, fear beginning to well up in him. What kind of weird, cruel person would do something like this to him? Not only is he shirtless and cold, but there's bruises and scrapes on his arms and legs as well, almost as if he'd been thrown down a set of stairs.
Not liking this situation at all, Phantom gets up quickly to leave. He is startled out of his mind when he nearly plunges right into an icy cold pool of water.
Phantom: "Why am I in here? I don't like this."
Gypsy: "Oh, but I like it. I like seeing you all helpless and frightened in there. I got to inspect you quite well earlier. You appear to be that fairy that stays at the Overlord castle. Why should Midnight get all the fun of seeing you miserable?"
Phantom: "Oh, no, Midnight doesn't make me miserable. I make her miserable. But I don't do things like this. This isn't a trick, this is just being mean!"
Gypsy: "Oh, shut up, fairy. I didn't capture you to hear your insufferable whining."
Gypsy: "Ugh, no. I've barely had any fun with you yet."
Phantom: "This isn't fun! I hate water and I hate being half-naked and I hate people taking off my clothes. And I hate chloroform too!"
Gypsy: "I figured you were a brainless dolt when you walked into my caravan, but I didn't realize you were this brainless and annoying."
Phantom: "You're evil and wicked and mean and bad and nasty."
Gypsy: "...You know what, fairy? I think you're a little too comfortable over there."
Phantom: "I'm not comfortable at all!"
Gypsy: "...See this lever over here, fairy? See this? Know what it does? I'll show you what it does."
Before Phantom can even let out a whimper, the gypsy jerks the lever down. Phantom quickly realizes it controls the platform he's standing on. Instantly it sinks, plunging Phantom into the chilly water. The gypsy only laughs as Phantom chokes and tries his best to stay afloat. Water washes over his face, dashing up his nostrils and into his mouth. Desperately Phantom tries to breathe, tries to paddle and thrash his arms and legs. He hates swimming. He hates it, particularly because he has no idea how to.
Amaranth barely moves from one location, trying to swallow back her fear. What could Woofie have possibly smelled that he had to go take care of it and leave her behind? Is...is something wrong with Bizzie? Is there something dangerous going on with Bizzie? The very thought makes her sick. Bizzie's the nicest creature in the world. She can't imagine who would ever want to seriously hurt him. Not to mention now Woofie has gone after him. He could get hurt too.
Worst of all, it's getting dark and she's all alone. Every sound makes her more and more nervous. Suddenly scared of monsters, Amaranth shuts her eyes tight, trying to tell herself all the noises are merely the wind blowing through the trees.
As her fear dies down slightly, Amaranth opens her eyes again. Her heart leaps into her throat when she sees a figure approach her. She knows Woofie told her to hide in the bushes or behind the rocks, but she's so scared that instead she lets out a scream and falls into the fetal position, beginning to cry immediately.
"Amaranth? Amaranth, is that you?!"
Amaranth looks up, trying to blink back her tears, trying to breathe normally. As soon as she sees who it is, she dashes forward and slams into his body, wrapping her arms around him as tight as she can.
Amaranth: "Toof! Oh, Toof, I was so scared!"
Oliver: "How long have you been here?"
Amaranth: "A-A couple of days, I th-think? Sniff, oh, Toof, I don't want to be here anymore!"
Oliver: "It's okay, Am, it's okay. I'm here now. We're going to go home."
Amaranth: "But...but Woofie said we couldn't go back home. Not for a long time."
Oliver: "We can. We all were mistaken. It's okay to go back home. It's safe back there."
Amaranth: "Sniff, o-okay. B-but...are we going now? Woofie told me to wait here for him."
Amaranth: "He said he smelled Phantom, then he smelled something else and said he had to leave, and he had to go by himself. He told me to stay here and not go anywhere, and that he would be back really fast."
Oliver: "....How long ago did he leave? And what direction did he run?"
Amaranth: "It wasn't too long ago. He went in...that direction."
Oliver: "...Okay. Well, we're going to go home."
Amaranth: "But he told me to wait for him!"
Oliver: "It will be okay, Amaranth. I think I know where to find him. Let's get you home, where it's safe and warm and you don't have to worry about anything."
Amaranth: "...Okay, Toof....I missed you really bad."
Oliver: "I missed you too, Amaranth. I'm glad you're going to be back home."
As Oliver, relieved and eternally thankful, takes Amaranth back to the castle with him, he quickly calls Midnight. He lets her know that he's found Amaranth by herself and they're going back home. Jakkson is out finding Phantom. Oliver tells her that, according to Amaranth, he ran in the direction of the gypsy wagon. It could be a long shot, but perhaps she ought to consider checking there first.
Phantom can hardly reply back, still desperately flailing his legs, trying to grasp onto the bars to hold himself up. He knows he doesn't have a lot of strength, but if he can cling onto the bars as long as he can, he might be able to postpone a death of drowning. Yet every time Phantom's slippery fingers grasp the bars, the gypsy sharply kicks them, causing Phantom to drop back into the pool.
Gypsy: "Please? Please what? Please leave you in there longer? Baha! Come on, fairy. You have wings. Why don't you just lift yourself out? Can't you fly?"
Phantom tries to choke back tears. Perhaps strong fairies would be able to lift themselves out by their wings. But he's not a strong fairy. In fact, when he'd traveled to an elf camp in his teenage years to discover more about his father's ancestry, the other elves laughed at how frail he was. Even if he were a strong fairy, his clipped wings are useless when wet. He's gotten the hang of flying on dry ground. He can barely even move his wings when they're wet, however. In fact, the base of the wings throbs with pain on his back. The scars are old, but still hurt in the freezing cold water.
The gypsy grins as the fairy puts his last energies into gasping for breath and trying to stay afloat. It's a marvelous sight. Poor helpless fairy, pretty little thing, dying in misery. It makes the gypsy tingle with fiendish delight.
Then, right behind him, the gypsy hears a vicious, snarling growl. Startled, he turns around to find a beast staring back at him.
Jakkson doesn't have words for the gypsy. He'd followed the scent trail all the way down the stairs. He'd immediately seen Phantom struggling in the water, the gypsy watching in delight. There is no time for yelling or growling at the gypsy. There is only time to attack him, subdue him, and rescue the fragile fairy.
But Jakkson doesn't plan on letting the gypsy off easy. Torturing and killing anyone is a most despicable deed deserving of punishment, much less torturing and killing a fairy with little-to-no defenses. Yet even this is far worse. The gypsy doesn't know Phantom like Jakkson does. The gypsy doesn't know the rascally and mischievous yet kind and loving heart that he's tormenting. There must be vengeance and justice for the cruelty. Jakkson cannot bring himself to kill the gypsy. But he can ensure he is cursed, cursed with the same nightmare Jakkson himself has had to deal with, something Jakkson never wished upon anyone...until now.
The gypsy finally raises to his feet, angry and humiliated. Not only has he been bitten by a stupid werewolf, but he doesn't even get to see his fairy drown! As he tries to figure out what to do next, another nightmare marches down the stairs and looks him straight in the face. The gypsy's heart sinks to the floor.
Gypsy: "...Midnight Overlord. A pleasure to meet you. Someone who's as evil as I am...I've been wanting to--"
Gypsy: "You would truly reveal yourself as weak? You dare to pity the good-hearted?"
Midnight: "Goodness disgusts me and kindness makes me wretch, but as much as I hate that fairy sometimes, he makes me laugh and I can't imagine the world without him."
Gypsy: "...Hmm. You're tainted, not fit to be an overlord. You would've put your Emperor of Evil father to shame. There's no place among the wicked for pity on delicate souls like--"
Midnight: "You are wrong. Oh, I plan on being as evil and tyrannical as I can, but you are wrong to say all the kind-hearted must be oppressed and killed. Even the wicked need support, and cannot survive off of pure evil alone. I've learned this the hard way, almost ruined everything for me. Furthermore, every evil Overlord needs comic relief, you twit. Furthermore, I want to look you straight in the eye and tell you what a cheap, lying, no good, rotten, far flushing, snake licking, dirt eating, inbreed, overstuffed, ignorant, blood sucking, dog kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-arsed, bug eyed, stiff legged, spotty lipped, worm headed sack of money crap you are!"
Midnight: "Do you? I'm quite glad."
Gypsy: "C-Could you at least give me back my clothes?"
Midnight: "Oh, I'd rather not. When you come back as a ghost, everyone will be able to recognize you, forever naked. Might give you pause on what you did, mm?"
Gypsy: "You would leave me here to die?!"
Midnight: "My wonderful werewolf put the bars back on, but I'm sure if you pushed hard enough, they would come off. You might give it a try. I'm not waiting around to see if you do, though. I have things to discuss with my heir. Should you survive, I'll have you know you'll not be overthrowing the empire of the Overlords. Not with me, and not with my daughter."
Gypsy: "Wait! Come back! Come back!!!"
Jakkson turns away briefly, a sudden rush of tears springing to his eyes. He still feels incredibly guilty about leaving her by herself. What if the person approaching her hadn't been Oliver? She could have been in real danger. Jakkson can't quite say he regrets it - had he arrived a few minutes late, Phantom could have been dead - but he knows what he did was not safe for his precious daughter.
Phantom, meanwhile, briefly lays down on his bed, missing the ceremony altogether. He's had a rough day, a scary day. He just needs to rest and think about things for a little bit. He makes a mental note to really thank Jakkson later.
Phantom: "...Whoa! Who's that? Did you get another servant, Midnight?"
Amaranth: "Bizzie! It's me, Amaranth. I had my birthday just now."
Phantom: "Oh. All grown up now."
Amaranth: "Well...I'm a teenager anyway. It feels a little weird actually."
The rest of the evening goes pretty quietly. Exhausted, Phantom, Amaranth, and Oliver all head to bed right after dinner. Jakkson hangs around for a little while, a lot on his mind. His concentration breaks when Midnight touches him on the shoulder.
Midnight: "It didn't have to turn out this way at all."
Jakkson: "...I know. I...I guess I should've...talked to you more deeply, instead of just running. I misunderstood you. I misunderstood the situation. I wanted my daughter to be safe, and..."
Midnight: "Your daughter?"
Jakkson: "Oh...yeah. Oliver looked at his globe thing. He said I was the father."
Midnight: "...She does have your nose, now that I think of it."
Jakkson: "Hmm. I guess I don't notice noses. But...anyway...I'm really sorry, Midnight. This whole thing was a mess and I basically started the whole thing. If it weren't for me, Phantom wouldn't have gotten kidnapped either."
Jakkson: "...I'm happy that you see it now. Camping out in the wilderness was a miserable experience. I don't ever want to subject Amaranth to that again. She never liked the outdoors to begin with."
Midnight: "...I....sigh. I might as well just say it, while I'm on a roll. I missed you tremendously, Jakk."
Midnight: "I've been a bad girl. I admit I've...I've used you in ways that I should not have. But...I never lied when I told you I loved you."
Jakkson: "...You really do?"
Midnight: "I don't blame you if you wouldn't want to be with me any longer. I've been pretty miserable to live with at times. Can't say I regret it, really, but it's truth. Not to mention I'm...I'm almost old. You're still very young."
Jakkson: "Let's just take it one day at a time, Midnight. We can focus on one day at a time."
Author's notes: I know, it's been nearly a week since the last update. Midterms and Fall Break kept me too busy to play (and write). But hier ist ein neue Kapitel! (I apologize to any Germans if I got the grammar wrong...I'm still very much learning.)
Phantom is safe. No more scumbag gypsy. I'll leave it to your imaginations as to whether he escaped from his own watery dungeon or not. Meanwhile, stay tuned. Amaranth and Midnight discuss their Overlord plans in the next chapter, and Phantom...well, Phantom gets a delightful surprise of his own.
I know there's only one pic of Amaranth as a teen, and it's not that close up of her. You'll get to see more of her in the next chapter. I think she is just beautiful. I couldn't have created her more beautiful. Midnight and Jakkson, y'all make some darn perty babies. Also, Amaranth received the Hydrophobic trait upon aging to teenagehood (this was the trait assigned, since she did so poorly in school that I could not control it, per the Deadbeat Parents goal), which makes a lot of sense. After Amaranth learned of Phantom's terrifying experience, understandably she now hates water too.
I have also rolled for Amaranth's generation. She's taking over really soon.
Marital structure: Single
Number of children: Three
Primary income: Private Investigator
Generational goal: Social Bunny.
Fun goal: Random Traits.
One last note. The door to the master bathroom is stuck open, so no one can go through it because it believes it is constantly being used by Midnight, even though it isn't. Any idea to get this deleted or unstuck?
Leaves de comments below! :D