The Stick of Truth: The Great Journey - Chapter 12 - CitizenAO3 (2023)

chapter text

I was in darkness. darkness around me. Darkness blinds me. I could feel myself, I could feel my own heartbeat, but I couldn't see anything. I had no vision, no feeling except for the clothes on my back. Then, suddenly, a surreal environment appeared in my mind and banished the darkness. I saw nothing but green grass around me and in front of me was a crystal blue lake. Curious as to what the surface of the lake would reflect, I peered inside. I saw myself - but a younger version of me. I wasn't more than three years old. My hair, my body, everything about me was the same, but I was as small as a three year old.

A calm woman's voice called to me. It was a voice I swear I could almost recognize years ago. "Cole, darling, don't fall in the water."

I turned around immediately. A man, a woman, and a child my age were lying on a picnic blanket under a tree. The picnic blanket was dyed in a red and white plaid pattern. All people shared my Caucasian skin tone. The woman had black hair that reached a little past the nape of her neck. She had bright blue eyes and was no more than twenty-five. She was beautiful, with a shapely body, luscious cheeks and a gorgeous smile. The man is about the same age and also had a good figure for a grown man. He had eyes as blue as the woman's and mine, half inch short blond hair and a warm smile. He wore a yellow scarf around his neck. He reminded me a lot of my mistake. The boy was practically a younger Isaac, with the same haircut, the same clothes, everything the same except that he was missing the yellow scarf, and he was also three years old. Then I realized - it was like a memory from the past. The black-haired woman was my mother.

"Mom..." was all I could say. I could not believe it. She is here. This can't be real. This must be a dream. I look like I'm three years old, when in fact I'm turning ten now.

"Come here darling." She had her arms outstretched. I instinctively ran to her. She took me in her arms while I hugged her. "Aww, you're so cute."

"Mother!" I said. I held my mother tighter in my arms, almost squeezing her sides.

"Everything is fine, love." I felt a kiss on my right cheek. "I am always there for you."

But then I didn't feel anything. I was no longer on my mother's lap. I fell to the ground. I looked up and she wasn't there. I looked around. Only my father and Isaac stayed behind and looked at me. "Mother!" I looked around in panic. "Mother!"

"We'll all be together again soon, Cole, stay strong." Dad smiled. It also began to disappear into nothing. I ran to Dad to reach out and grab his hand, but my hands slipped past him.

"Father! No!” Crying.

I looked at my brother Isaac. He waved at me and smiled. "We will be together again as a happy family." He, too, disappeared soon after.

"Isaac!" I also tried to grab him but to no avail as he disappeared into nowhere.

I looked back at the lake, which was now completely drained. Only stones and earth remained in their place. There was no logical or symbolic explanation for this that I could find. I was not sure. I must be having a terrible nightmare. My whole family is disappearing from my sight. Then I felt a tremor and winced - literally...

I don't know what hit the ground now because I was shattered by the shock wave that threw me out of my sleeping bag. I must have landed on my back because the cold snow sent an icy pang down my spine. My brain was reeling in pain as I woke up from my nightmare. When I opened my eyes I saw the moon, but in a different position than when I fell asleep. Most notably, the green light was no longer in the sky, but deep in my eyes I could see a green aura radiating. I raised my head and saw a familiar character that I might have seen in a video game before. The figure took the form of a sickly green griffin chimera fusion, with a demon-shaped head and a distorted demonic expression, a jagged mouth, and green light emanating from the eyes and throat, the same hue as the star I'd seen before had tonight. . The figure was made of black obsidian stone with stone wings, a brown griffin-like waist, and green aurora lines throughout the body that pulsated with green lights. It had two arms and four legs shaped like the legs of a bird, and in the griffin's right hand was a large staff, also made of obsidian, with a green power crystal at the tip.

"No way..." I couldn't believe my eyes. I knew exactly where this character came from. "You don't either..."

"Ugh..." I heard Stan stand up to my left. "...What the hell happens..."

"...What is that?" Wendy's sigh was quite nervous.

The stone griffin spoke in a hoarse voice. "I could hear you all screaming out there on the ledge. And that's why I'm here, to teach you all a lesson – in teamwork.” He raised his staff and swung it down, and a glowing arcane orb was fired – at me! I tried to get up and run, but the bullet was going too fast and exploded in front of my face. I whirled and grabbed my face, the beam of magic burning and stinging me.

I clutched my face burning with pain. "Ouch! What the hell!"

"Don't think about it," the griffin simply mocked.

"Take it!" I heard Wendy scream.

I opened my eyes Stan, Wendy, and Isaac drew their guns and tried to attack the griffin, but it just flew up. "It seems I overestimated your intelligence." The griffin laughed haughtily again. "Do you really think you can hit a flying target with swords and axes?"

Lightning and an ice spear struck the obsidian griffin's face. Both projectiles exploded in his face. The griffin shifted its gaze to the left—at Ray. As I stood up, the griffin spoke again. "Damn wizards. Here, I'll give you a little break.” Ray was suddenly lifted off the ground and moments later he disappeared, engulfed in a bubble of brilliant blue light. "Your sanity is dwarfed."

"Beam!" I shouted. I tried to reach him, unfortunately I just realized that he has been banished from the physical plane.

I tried to heal my face again but was hit by another magical explosion, this time from my right side. I turned around again, but quickly stood up again. "Idiots, I thought the number one rule in any fight was to protect your healer."

I heard Stan, Wendy, and Isaac yell, but it didn't look like their guns were connected to anything. Do these idiots really think they can swing their sword at a flying target? Suddenly I heard the sound of a door closing and Ray came out of the bubble. His mouth was open and his eyes were blurred. "cole?"

"Yes?" I asked.

"I feel... even more stupid."

I winced. I suddenly remembered what the griffin was capable of - it could literally temporarily steal people's intelligence and turn it against them. Then, looking to the right, I saw Stan, Wendy, and Isaac standing next to me, guns drawn, like they were my bodyguards. "Well, you can't kill Cole now!" Stan yelled. "He's with us!"

I let out a low moan. Oh no, my friends are unaware of the power of the griffin. "Guys, we need to spread out. Now!"

But it was probably too late by the time the griffin began to rise, lift its air and raise its staff to the sky. "I'll break your mind."

Suddenly, I was consumed by an arcane explosion that pierced the snow around us. A fiery gust of wind entered my mind and tore my brain apart. "Oh!" We five screamed. I grabbed my head and felt like I was completely fried. It's like feeling when Mr. Garrison gives us a pop culture quiz.

"Oh, what the hell?" Stan cried. "Crap! My head hurts badly!"

"What's this guy?" Wendy added.

When I opened my eyes, I saw the griffin lying on the ground in front of us again. "Hahahaha. i have many names Obsidian Destroyer, Outworld Destroyer, Outworld Demolisher, Outworld Devourer, and funnily enough even Outhouse Decorator.” He let out another harsh laugh. "But you can all call me 'Forerunner.' Like the forerunner of the end times.”

"Are you going to kill us?" asked Isaac. "Please do not kill me!"

"No," replied the griffin.

"Then why are we attacking each other?" Wendy asked. "You almost burned my brain!"

"It was a friendship test and you failed." The griffin fled again. I thought that here Dovahkiin would be able to bring in the power of friendship and the voice to restore the staff. But from what I observed from all of you a few hours ago, I don't think he's capable of that.” The griffin glared at Ray. "Unfortunately, I can't do your job. That is not my destiny.”

"What do you know about friendship?" Stan said. "What are you anyway?"

"The exercise was to see how long you could last against me." Harbinger twirled his staff, wings beating to the rhythm of eternity. "You kids didn't even last a minute. You don't work as a team, you all move as if you have no connection to each other. How will you defeat Terrorblade when he reaches his full power?"

I sighed. "Do you know anything about Stick?"

"Of course I know about the Stick of Truth!" Harbinger replied dryly. "'Who wields the staff controls the universe.' It's not a silly fairy tale. And how should I know about friendship? Are you familiar with the game Dota 2?”

It came back to me. Of course he was from Dota 2 too, how could I be so stupid? When nobody else said anything, I stepped forward. "I play Dota 2 sometimes."

"So you know about team games, right?" Harbinger asked. "The purpose of killing the old enemy?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Good, that'll save us some time." Harbinger landed on the ground and snow erupted from his landing pad as his landing shook the ground again. "Did you know that the game is actually based on events that happened in the universe decades, if not centuries ago?"

"Wait, are you telling me that Valve, the company, happened to develop a game based on real events?" I could hear Ray pacing.

"That's a big coincidence, isn't it, Dovahkiin?" Harbinger cleared his throat. I've teamed up with four other people - a pyromancer, a paladin, a magnetic warrior, and a black phantom with a blade. Our task was to defeat Terrorblade and his allies.” Harbinger closed his eyes. "We didn't get along very well. We made a lot of mistakes - myself included. We blamed each other when things went wrong other insults and names - idiot, newbie, loser, faggot. That was why Terrorblade might be around now. Harbinger covered his face. "We're all different." But everyone needs friends to get anywhere. Did you know that human beings naturally need love and positive social experiences?”

Only Isaac said no. The rest of us were silent.

"When we failed at our work we never saw each other again sweet human but yes you are all different. You have different experiences with different ideals and as such you will naturally conflict from time to time.” I saw Wendy raise her hand to say something, but Harbinger held out her hand as if to stop her. "Hush, you're not the holy grail. But those same differences can be used to cover up your own weaknesses and make you stronger.” Harbinger yawned again. "You're kids - you're carefree, you just want to play and have fun and not worry about having to retrieve a sacred artifact, but get it - good friends working together can destroy any problem. I know it sounds cheesy, but "...I should have told my allies that a long time ago."

This literally felt like every single Dota 2 game I've played where someone freaks out and gets angry when things don't go our way. Or any WoW dungeon where someone makes a mistake and the rage erupts. I was amazed how anyone could combine video games with a real friendship. But alas, it works, and I have to give Harbinger credit for it. I think he's really smart.

"I want to say something else," Harbinger continued. "It is said that Dovahkiin's true power lies in his collective friendships. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean he should make as many friends as possible on Facebook. Think about it.” Maybe Harbinger really means that you just need a few good friends to solve any problem. "I expect Terrorblade will become an unstoppable force if he doesn't die by the end of this Friday." Makes sense considering how fast Terrorblade is. "Oh, and one more thing: the US government will be after you."

"Why?" asked Stan.

"This catastrophe has happened before - related to the same Dovahkiin here." Harbinger pointed to Ray. "They want to cover things up. Word on the street is that the spaceship crash is being disguised as the new Taco Bell.”

"I can't remember anything." Ray just shook his head. "My parents always insist that nothing happened."

"You'll remember that before long." Harbinger yawned again. "You know where to go, don't you?"

"North from North Park to Sol Lighthouse?" Wendy answered.

"I'm surprised you already knew," Harbinger replied. "I assume you've all read the book. Where is it?"

"I have." Stan took the book off his belt and showed it to him.

"Keep it," Harbinger replied. "Wait, where did you find this?"

"I found it in my school library," I replied.

Harbinger just had a confused look on his face. "Huh. I wrote this thing in the 1930's in case Stick turns up. I didn't think it would show up in elementary school in a humble mountain town in the Midwest.”

Stan chuckled. "South Park isn't that humble."

"See you all at Sunlight but it's time for me to go. I also need to help clean up the Nazi zombie outbreak.” Harbinger groaned. “Ugh, this isn't the first time this has happened either. Those damn visitors don't know how to contain their bacteria or how to fly a spaceship.” With that, Harbinger flew toward South Park.

"I wonder if I should have told Harbinger I killed the spaceship pilots..." Ray rubbed his chin.

"Did you cause the accident?" Isaac grabbed Ray's shoulders. "What's wrong with you?"

"They examined me, dammit! I had to find a way out!” Ray turned to Stan and suddenly a grin appeared on his face. "By the way, Stan, your father, and Craig Tucker were also under investigation."

"What?" Stan's eyes widened. He was probably shocked and amazed when he heard that.

I checked my phone. It was 5:20 a.m. "Huh. 5:20. I don't think we'll fall asleep again anytime soon. Shall we go now?”

"What's up, Wendy?" Stan asked.

I turned to Wendy and she just looked at her feet. "It's about what Harbinger said about friendship..." She exhaled deeply. "I said some mean things to you last night. I behaved like that and the worst part is that I meant everything, well... I just want to apologize for putting you through all the trouble.”

"I shouldn't have called you all the assholes," Isaac apologized.

"Wendy," Stan said. "I think we have trouble trusting each other. I mean, that's what couples should do, right? Trust each other?” He sighed and held out his hands. "I'm a shitty friend. I didn't bother, and I treated you like some kind of prize or something, or well, I don't know how to explain it... I really don't know."

Wendy nodded. "It's okay Stan, I gave you trouble too, and well, there's a way to make it up to you. Against each other, of course.”

"As?" asked Stan.

Wendy wasted no time and leaned in to kiss Stan on the lips. I guess she didn't want to give Stan time to throw up on her haha. I looked at Ray who had his eyes covered. "EW!" I chuckle. Ray will understand love later if not now. I mean, besides, it's not like every fourth grader in the world has a boyfriend or girlfriend.

When Wendy and Stan parted, she immediately jumped to Stan's right to avoid being hit by the barrage of vomit pouring from Stan's jet. Unfortunately, the vomit reached Isaac's legs. "EW!" Isaac complained.

When Ray wasted no time summoning a water elemental to spray Isaac's vomit, Wendy's eyes twitched and she smiled. "I'm sorry. Stan gets very nervous around me and feels nauseous. All guys get nervous around their girlfriends, trust me.”

I just sat there and didn't know what to make of it. I really don't. From the outside you'd think Wendy smelled really bad. But she doesn't, in fact she often wears perfume. Despite our situation, I could still smell it on her. To be honest, I kind of wanted to get back on track. "So what do we do with North Park? How do we get to Sovngarde before the end of Friday? We need a car.”

"Well, there is a way to get a car..." Stan shrugged. "Um... I hope you're all okay with breaking great laws, because you're not going to like that..."

Wendy rolled her eyes. "Oh come on Stan, it can't be that bad..."

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