Chapter 14: Step Careful
There’s a lurching, yet almost weightless feeling in my gut as I fall through space and time, the core of my self being warped to the next dimension. That is the feeling I hold onto, or try to, at least, before it’s replaced by what can only be described as nonexistence before the cold hits me.
Opening my eyes, I hurry to unwrap my hoodie and pull it on me before I register my surroundings. I’m in a three-by-three obsidian box, one wall missing that leads out to the End. The mainland- if you can call it that- is a couple of blocks away, connected by a path made of obsidian. Making my way down this path, I take in the sights.
Most of the End looks rather deserted, save for only a very few endermen in the distance. A huge, imposing castle looms in the far distance, and that’s what I head towards.
As I walk, a pair of eyes- one purple and one white- catch my gaze, and my legs just suddenly stop working on me. I can’t move, I can’t tear my gaze away from those eyes . . .
“State your name.”
The voice is familiar, and I clear my throat. “Ryan.”
There’s a moment of silence- and in that moment, I feel a spike of fear that doesn’t seem to be entirely my own- and suddenly, there’s a gleaming obsidian blade against my neck, the wielder having appeared right in front of me in a spark of purple pixels.
I don’t move- can I even move?- as the Enderqueen’s eyes flick back and forth across my face. Anger at first, then confusion, then finally realization.
The sword is removed from my neck as Shado stands to her full height. Being only fourteen, she’s still taller than me. Perhaps it comes from her ender DNA?
“Mind telling me what that was?” I ask, rubbing my throat.
She turns her head to the side, not meeting my gaze. “. . . Thought you were someone else. But never mind that.” She turns back to me, arms crossed and almost glaring at me. “Why are you here?”
Christ, she’s intimidating.
I take a deep breath. Am I really going to do this?
“I want to join your army.”
“And why should I let you?” The answer is immediate, like she’s been through this a few times. And as she speaks, a creature that looks like a way-too-tall enderman with white patches makes its way towards us, looming over me while standing next to her. A bodyguard, probably?
“I have information.”
I’m really doing this.
“Notch has returned to the Aether.”
Shado’s eyes widen at this, and she turns to look up at her ender companion, who simply stares at me with a shocked expression. She turns back to me, then closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, dropping her arms to the side.
“Follow me,” she commands after a moment, turning on her heel and walking in long strides back towards the castle she came from.
I make a move to follow her, but a hand on my shoulder stops me and I look up to see the ender-creature looking down at me. It says something in the ender language, and I shake my head. “I don’t understand you,” I respond.
It squeezes its eyes shut in response, seemingly trying to remember something before speaking in broken English. “You . . . truth?”
I hesitate, then nod. “I saw with my own eyes.”
It watches me for a moment before letting go of my shoulder, and I go to follow Shado into the castle.
You can’t be serious.
I sit in a rather large room, something that resembles a living room, on a couch while the two girls- Shado and another girl known as Spiritbrine- almost interrogate me for what I know. Shado’s ender companion stands at the doorway, acting somewhat as a guardian.
“I’m serious,” I repeat. “I was there in the Aether-“
And how did a simple player like you get into the Aether, huh?! Spiritbrine snaps, almost growling at me. I lean back in my seat, somewhat trying to avoid her gaze. God, those eyes are creepy as hell.
“He’s not just a player, Sprite,” Shado interjects before I can say anything. “He’s a Moblord.”
Spiritbrine glares at Shado, then scoffs. Who let him be a Moblord?
“And who let you be the daughter of Herobrine?” Shado retorts. “Learn your place and let him say what he needs.”
Spiritbrine huffs in annoyance, then turns back to me with her arms crossed. Well?
I take a small breath before speaking again. “Frozen brought us up there, me and two others. To train,” I explain. “And they said we were to be stationed up there, with all the other Moblords-“
“How many, exactly?” Shado interrupts. “Who?”
I bite my lip. “Bracken. Sun. Frozen. . . . That’s everyone I know.”
“And now Notch’s back, too-“
“And Jeb,” I add.
And Jeb?! Spiritbrine yells, and I hear Shado curse under her breath. By my father, how much worse can this get for us?!
Hope is not lost for us yet, a voice calls from a distance, yet seems to ring inside my mind at the same time, much like Spiritbrine’s. I stiffen in my seat while the two girls whirl around towards the voice.
What do you mean by that? Spiritbrine asks, and I can hear something like . . . disbelief? Maybe? It’s an odd thing to hear. But when I glance in the direction the two were facing towards, I slink down in my chair and avert my eyes to avoid the piercing gaze of the demigod himself.
Have you forgotten your assets? Herobrine continues, stepping over to our group without making a sound. For starters, you have me. Spirit, your powers are limitless in their own right.
But I don’t know how to use them as well as you do! Spiritbrine responds, almost desperately.
On that note, Herobrine claps a hand on her shoulder. From now on, I will train you, personally. And Shado . . . not only do your powers rival Jeb himself, you have countless other players and mobs under your command- and now, one more to your army. Isn’t that right, Ryan?
Both girls turn to me, and I freeze in my spot with three unnatural pairs of eyes all on me. Shado recovers first, crossing her arms and her face falling back to a more serious look.
“Well, you’ve proven yourself trustworthy of information, so tell me this: can you fight?”
“I-I like to think I can,” I stutter.
“Not good enough.” She grabs my arm and pulls me out of the chair, forcing me to stand. The other two step out of our way at the same time. “Come with me, we’re gonna spar.”
And you’re going to let him join, just like that?! Spiritbrine yells.
“No, we’ve got things to do!” Shado calls back, half-dragging me out of the room. We descend further into the depths of the castle and I take in the sights- flowing tapestries on walls lit by glowstone, winding hallways and glimpses into expensive rooms with who knows what they hold. It really is a magnificent castle, and I’m a little jealous.
Finally, we reach a room deep down in the depths of the fortress- a wide open area, the walls obsidian, lined with torches, the ground made of nether brick. It seems discolored slightly, and worn, as if it’s been used a lot.
Shado lets go of my arm and turns to stand a bit away from me, drawing her sword and holding it to her side, the enchanted obsidian gleaming in the torchlight. “Do you have a weapon?”
I nod, pulling out my own iron sword and mimicking her position. She eyes it, and then stares at me in disbelief. “Iron? Really?”
“Hey, it was the best I had at the time,” I respond defensively.
“Well, prepare for it to break, just warning you.”
She shifts her foot back, leaning down into a ready position, with me getting into my own. A quick glance over me, and she’s teleported into my face, slashing downward. I raise my own sword to block it, and the clash of the metals ring out around the area.
I push back against her sword and she teleports backwards, glancing over me once more. A pause, and she appears in front of me again, this time with a side slash. I block this as well, pushing against it and making her stumble, slashing across her stomach. She is just barely out of range for the attack to hit, and she lunges at me again, with me blocking the blow once again.
We trade blows like this for a bit longer. Her slashing, my blocking and parrying, her dodging and slashing again. What gets me the most is that she’s fast, faster than I am. She manages to land a few scrapes on me, but always pauses afterwards, as this is only a spar.
When I’m finally out of breath, I drop to the ground on my knees and hands, and she taps the side of my head with her sword. “You’ve got a lot to learn,” she quips, “but so far you’re good. Really think you got what it takes. I’ll let you in.”
She holds out a hand and pulls me up to stand, and I pull off my hoodie and wipe the sweat off my forehead with it. “Thanks.”
“One last question, though.” She returns her sword to her inventory and crosses her arms. “You’re the wither skeleton Moblord. Any special powers that can be useful to us?”
“Um . . . I can talk to skeletons.” I shrug. “Haven’t really put that to much use.”
She sighs. “We’re gonna have to work on that too. But if you’re anything like the other Ryan, well, let’s just say you’ve got a long road ahead of you.” She brushes past me on the way out of the room before pausing at the entranceway, not turning to face me when she spoke again. “Frozen isn’t to hear a single word about this, do you understand?”
“Oh, trust me, they won’t be getting anything from me,” I respond, following her to the doorway.
“Good. Now, don’t you have somewhere to be? It’s almost daybreak in the Overworld, you better hurry.”
I panic a little at her words, but then stop just as I’m heading out the room. “How do you know about that?”
She gives me the world’s cockiest grin. “Frozen’s one true downfall is that they send the world’s most passive-aggressive letters. Now go on, portal’s off to the side, you can’t miss it. Don’t let them find out.”
I nod, making my way out of the room and through the castle on my way back home.
Not a word gets out to them. Not a word.
“We can’t find Ryan.”
Frozen glances up from their book, looking over at me in the dim light of the dawn. “What?”
“We can’t find Ryan,” I repeat in English, tapping my claws against the doorframe and carefully eyeing the light waiting to spill into the room from the outside. “Guardian’s still out there looking for him.”
“Maybe he went out for a walk?” Frozen suggests, closing their book and rubbing their eyes.
I scoff, but before I can respond the front door slams open. “Rylie!” I hear Guardian call. “Found him!”
I turn on my heel and watch as Guardian almost drags Ryan through the door, Rain stepping in behind them. When Guardian lets go of his arm, he practically collapses on the ground and whines dramatically, waving his arm as if he were waving a white flag above his head.
“Where have you been?!” I demand, picking him up and raising him above the ground so that we’re face-to-face. “We’ve been looking for you all night!”
Ryan seems to flinch- in pain?- at my actions, and stutters a bit before speaking. “I-I went for a walk-“
“All night?” Guardian calls from where she’s leaning against the doorway. Rain steps past me, heading towards Frozen’s room.
“Well, yeah,” Ryan responds as if it’s obvious.
I let out a noise that can only be described as one of frustrated distress, shaking him a little bit. “Just because you’re the wither skeleton Moblord doesn’t mean any other mobs won’t attack you!”
He blinks at me in surprise. “How do you know about that?”
I jerk my head towards Frozen’s room with what felt like a glare on my face. “It’s not a secret, you know.”
He blinks again, then scowls in that same direction. “Can you please put me down now?”
I roll my eyes and drop him, watching him fall to the ground with a thud. Guardian gives a chuckle as he groans audibly at my actions. He pushes himself to his feet as I retreat back into the shadows, watching the daylight spill back into the room and unwilling to transform back into my human form in front of the two. Thankfully, the sun hasn’t completely risen yet, so I still have time.
“So where were you really?” Guardian calls, and Ryan turns to her.
“Alright, fine,” he sighs. “I went to the Nether to try out my abilities. Happy now?”
“You went to the Nether?!” Frozen shouts from their room, making us all jump. “You know that’s where Herobrine lives, right?!”
“I actually didn’t encounter him at all,” Ryan calls back, turning towards their voice.
“That doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been watching you!” they retort.
As the two bicker back and forth, I move over to where Guardian stands and lean over to her and whisper, “There’s something Ryan’s not telling us.”
Guardian gives a short nod in response. “I wonder what it is.”