Journey was back in her room, looking at all her various stuffed animals. It was amazing - did they really come to life and save her? And did Leopold, the plush leopard she made herself grow to a massive size and fight for her? Anyone else wouldn't believe her, but she saw with her very own eyes, and she felt Leopold growing and blocking for her. She had to do something...to replicate this.
Journey held the plush leopard in her hands, making eye contact as well as anyone with button eyes could. She imagined the plush leopard growing bigger and bigger still. Nothing happened. Journey shook the plush a little, and nothing happened.
"Leopold, grow!" She said to the leopard. Still nothing didn't happen.
Journey looked over at the panda plush that was still on the ground. Gently, she set Leopold to her side and picked up the Panda. Despite being able to send someone to the ground, it was just as light as any other stuffed animal would have been, if not a bit bulkier than others.
"...Attack!" She ordered to the panda. Nothing happened.
"I must have made it up," Journey though, flopping back on the bed, "I must have been studying so hard..."
Unbeknownst to her, Despair had made his way back to the base in the island and had pulled a few strings. Already, Journey dorms were busy being surrounded by small figures, most of which were invisible to normal people. Journey herself couldn't see them...unless she looked out the window. Which she unfortunately failed to do.
The only person who could be seen by normal people seemed to be sitting on a bench, looking at an old fashioned stopwatch, then up at the sky dotted with orange and pink clouds. It was a college campus after all. Almost nobody would identify somebody who did not belong.
What this intruder failed to notice was that he was not the only "foreign presence" on the campus. Two other targets had walked right onto campus. They were familiar with him, however, and managed to stay just outside of his range. It was Alana and Mara.
Both of them were on the other side of the dorm, where they were not only outside the intruder's range of detection, but where they were more easily able to hide from his foot soldiers, the vengeful spirits. Both of them could see numerous figures patrolling around the dorm building, waiting for something.
Normal ghosts were simple repeat ghosts, simple apparitions that were merely manifestations of someone's consciousness after they departed, and had a particular attachment to that spot. Repeat ghosts were rather benign, rarely even acknowledging that there are living people. But not vengeful spirits.
Vengeful spirits were the spirits of people who had died and were afraid to move on for some reason or another. Most of the time it was because of a grudge, or truly unfinished business. Very rarely was it anything good. Vengeful Spirits were almost always angry of living people, and were much more likely to fall to demons or malicious entities that sought to control their powers.
It so happened that these spirits were working for the same master as Despair and the intruder...Gregor Topham. All of them had looks of anger on their twisted visages. Some of which even looked physically deformed, bearing injuries of their deaths for the entire world to see. Vengeful Spirits rarely recognized themselves in a positive light, remembering only pain and agony inflicted upon them by the living.
"Were you able to detect her?" Alana whispered to Mara from their hiding place.
"Yes, she's upstairs. Sharlow is looking towards where she is. She's not in any danger of being outright killed, but you know what's to happen if they sent Sharlow. Did you disrupt the doors?"
"Yes," Alana said, "We don't have any other one of those other dolls though - and you'll quickly lose it when you open the door. Nobody else seems to have detected it."
Alana pointed to the door where she had 'disrupted' earlier. She remained far away from the dorm, not wanting to get too close to where people would catch her, especially if any scouts were sent to search for her or Mara. Lodged between the door and the frame was a small "paper doll" made out of an old expired credit card. It had firmly attached itself to the frame, preventing the door from fully locking again, thus "disrupting" it.
"Perfect...I'm going to go in. The vengeful spirits are going to attack when it's truly dark out. That's their cover. If things go awry, throw the summoning card. At least you can distract the vengeful spirits."
Alana nodded, while Mara begun to dash to the door. The vengeful spirits thankfully didn't notice her, or if they did, they looked towards her and thought she might have been a student. Some of them were easy to fool, but that didn't apply to others.
Mara quickly opened up the door, "doll" falling to the ground as she closed the door behind her. Getting in was the easy part, but now they had to get the person out before Sharlow did. It was getting darker and darker, lights were already coming on.
Mara ran to where she was detecting the signal. They weren't trained enough to hide their "auras" from others, benevolent or not. Must have just awakened at all. With literally superhuman speed, Mara zipped up the stairs and down to the hall, going to where the aura was getting stronger and stronger. For some reason the halls were surprisingly empty...as if everyone was tired.
Everyone but Journey, that is. Journey jumped up when she heard someone trying to open the door. Grabbing her panda plush, she carefully walked to the door. Now would have been a great time for these stuffed animals to actually do something. Rather than let them break in, Journey pulled the door open with one hand and then tossed the panda right on out with her other.
It was a direct hit, as Mara was sent right to the ground by a mixture of shock, and the stuffed panda suddenly gaining a surprising amount of weight. The wind was knocked out of Mara, as the plush held onto her torso tightly.
"You're not that guy from earlier," Journey said, not recognizing the ambiguously Korean woman with the plush firmly attached to her abdomen.
She seemed to mouth a few words, having no breath to her at first. Eventually, Mara took a few breaths and managed to gasp out a few words.
"You have to get out of here," Mara finally gasped, "They're coming for you. It's almost dark! They'll be in here any minute."
"Who's going to be in here?" Journey asked.
"The vengeful spirits - there's no time to explain. But they're trying to kidnap you because of what you can do. Can you get this...thing off me?"
Journey reached out and pulled the stuffed panda off of Mara, who quickly stood up.
"No time to explain - grab that thing and anything else you can and follow me out of here."
"And how do I know you're not leading these 'vengeful spirits' to me?"
"Because," Mara said, "I'm here to save you. And there happens - to be one coming right through your window!"
One would have assumed this was a trick to get someone to look behind them, but the growing distress in Mara's voice made Journey look behind her. Right there was someone who looked like a half-decapitated person reaching right through her window into her dorm room. Journey couldn't help but scream at the creature, and instinctively threw her panda. Rather than push him to the wall like it did that person earlier (And Mara), it went right through the man, bouncing off the closed window and landing on the floor.
"Physical objects aren't going to work on them!" Mara shouted, and then said something in a foreign language. Ropes appeared from nowhere and then wrapped around the creature, tying him up.
"Grab anything you can use and get out!" Mara shouted, "There's not much time before the rest come through and bring Sharlow with them."
"Who's Sharlow, and why is this so bad?" Journey asked.
"You'll find out soon enough," Mara said, "We don't have much time!"
Journey looked around, quickly stuffing her armadillo and snake into her backpack. She looked for Leopold, and stuffed him into her purse. She knew she forgot something but what was it - aha! Her rabbit. She quickly grabbed the rabbit and put him in her backpack with the other two stuffed animals. Journey laced the backpack around her shoulders and then held her handback, looking down at the pillow-sized panda that was on the ground.
"Uhm, stand and follow us?" She ordered the panda.
Surprisingly, the panda actually stood up and ambled into the hallway.
"Why do you have to bring so much baggage? We have to get out here FAST!" Mara said.
"Well I'm sorry, these things saved my life!" Journey responded.
Suddenly, she got an ominous feeling and lookd behind her, unbeknownst to her, so was her rabbit. Right there were two more vengeful spirits climbing through the window.
"Stay in the hallway," Mara said, pushing Journey into the hallway, almost causing her to trip over the still waiting panda, "I'll ward them off!"
Journey watched as these ghosts were bound with more ropes, the first one still struggling to break free of the ropes. The Korean woman then walked out, appearing to change a tad as she grew nine white foxtails and two silvery ears.
"If you're taking that...tackle thing with you, you might want to pick it up and hold on carefully," Mara warned. Journey obliged and picked up her panda by the hand.
"Here we go!" Mara shouted as she took Journey's free hand and rushed out of the hallway to the dorm. It was too silent, as she was rushed down the stairs. Thankfully, Journey couldn't feel the load on her back lightening, meaning her plushies were still with her. She held onto her purse and panda for dear life too, somehow unable to let go of Mara's hand.
"We're almost there, but be ready to fight," Mara warned, opening the door. It looked too silent...but right after they walked out, Mara stopped, almost sending Journey and her load flying right into her.
"We're spotted, he's nearby," Mara said.
As if on cue, several more men and women walked over, some of which looking like angry soldiers that were unarmed. They looked just like the three that climbed into Journey's dorm room.
"Any time you want to do that rope thing is fine with me," Journey said nervously.
"Wait," Mara said, "Sharlow! Come out!"
Not a minute later, a man walked right up in front of them. This must have been Sharlow. However, he didn't look like he sustained a horrific accident at all, he actually looked perfectly normal. Slightly unshaven face, around average height...yet he seemed to be carrying a somewhat pastoral looking staff, like you would expect a shepherd or a priest to have, even wearing a brimmed hat.
"Well, a good catch, I saw you on the island. Just come with us and I won't hurt you too badly."
"He can't kill you. Whatever you do, do not attack him - he can't even touch you unless you attack him. I'll hold these vengeful spirits back. Run over there, I'll catch up."
Mara immediately held her hands out and some small blue flames appeared, forming a circle around her.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Sharlow warned Mara, "One of those flames touches me and you know what happens."
"Run," Mara said, as she sent her foxfire towards the vengeful spirits. Rather than trying to attack, they actually jumped back, as if it was real fire. Sharlow seemed to be running towards the foxfire, only for it to stop before it actually made contact with the man. He was trying to goad her into attacking him - even by accident.
"This way! There's a path!" Mara shouted.
Journey took off to where this path was. However, Sharlow seemed to notice one of his targets trying to get away, and instead of trying to take foxfire hits, seemed to run towards Journey. She didn't catch it, but she started to slow down when a vengeful spirit stepped in her way. She could run through them, but it was probably not safe to even try.
However, before she could phase through the spirit, Sharlow appeared right in front of her, right in place of the spirit. He was smiling, waiting for her to do something. Journey managed to stop just inches away from the strange man...but momentum worked against her.
While she managed to stop, her handbag kept on going, hanging from her wrist. Time seemed to slow down for her as the handbag swung forward, eventually making contact with Sharlow. Did that count as an attack?
"Thank you, you fool," He said, raising his staff and beginning to chant something in latin.
"RUN!" Mara shouted again, immediately dashing towards Journey and Sharlow. But Journey had another idea. Instinctively, she tossed her panda towards Sharlow and gave him a command.
"Hold him down!" she shouted.
The panda seemed to grow a little and tackled Sharlow right in the chest, interrupting him. He fell to the ground, panda holding him down. The vengeful spirits now turned towards Journey and Mara.
"Good move! RUN!" Mara shouted again, grabbing Journey's hand as she dashed past.
"Panda! Come!" Journey shouted, as the panda seemed to roll off of Sharlow, hopping back to her as they ran into the brush.
"Alana, throw the card now!" Mara shouted to nobody in particular, "Sharlow was mistakenly attacked."
Before Journey could get an idea of what was going on, Sharlow was getting back up, and ran after that panda that had tackled him. He could smite them with whatever he wanted. Even if he couldn't kill anyone who wasn't undead, the Light was good enough to weaken people to where they could be taken to Topham.
Sharlow's staff glowed in the faint light, and he saw Mara running away with Journey, the fat little panda plush not far behind them. However, he was intercepted by someone else...who he also recognized from the island, it was Alana.
"Wow, what an idiot, she brought you too? Let's wipe out the whole house why don't you!" Sharlow taunted.
"Not yet! Come to me iron man," Alana shouted as she tossed down a small Tarot card, then promptly tore after Journey and Mara.
Before Sharlow or any of his vengeful spirits could even react, a large humanoid figure made of iron appeared right in his path. He simply stood there, before he received an order from the one who summoned him.
"Iron Man! Run them over!"
Immediately Sharlow was sent back as the iron man raised his knee in an almost comical walk. The iron man then set his foot down, making a similar motion with another. Before he could get up, the Iron man seemed to step right on him, knocking the wind right out of him as it took more and more exaggerated steps.
Soon, the iron man's "skip" seemed to miss a few beats as he begun to sink down. The vengeful spirits were soon distracted by the sight of the Iron Man who had hit their commander now raising one leg to walk only to fall forward, balancing itself on its outstretched leg and its other knee. The creature still attempted to walk, almost comically as it uselessly slid along its outstretched knee and leg, before falling to its side uselessly.
"Inexperienced controllers...mana is mana!" Sharlow said after he managed to get up, while the Iron Man continued to try to qwop in vain, before eventually vanishing. Sharlow looked down at the small card that was used to summon the Iron Man and impaled it with his staff. Even if they came back for it, Alana couldn't control it.
"Find them, search the entire campus," Sharlow commanded to the spirits, as they all set off in separate directions.
"I hope the at least distracted them by qwopping," Alana gasped as Mara had brought both of them to one of her usual modes of transport, her car. It as a truck, that belonged to Heiss, but he wouldn't be using it anytime soon. Mara let go of Journey and quickly dashed into the driver's seat.
"There's no time, jump into the back!" Mara shouted, starting the car up immediately.
"But isn't that dangerous?" Journey asked, "And what about my panda?"
"Leave it!" Alana shouted, climbing right back in over the back rail, pulling Journey up, but not quite making it. Journey climbed in as well, looking back at the dorm in the distance. Right as Mara tore out, suddenly something came at them from above. It was Journey's panda - still having followed them and had somehow gained an impossible acceleration rate.
"Whoa, it's following us still!" Journey shouted, holding her hands out to catch the panda.
"Wow, you're good at control-"
The panda landing right on her face interrupted Alana, sending her to the floor of the truck immediately. A few blocks later, Mara managed to slow to a complete stop.
"We're safer now, get in the front, both of you," Mara said, "Alana, you're in the middle."
Both of them obliged, as Alana squeezed into the middle of the seat in the truck, and Journey into the end, keeping her backpack and purse on the lap. It was a tight squeeze, what with all the stuffed animals, but Mara could thankfully drive them both to safety.
"Where're you taking me now?" Journey asked.
"To the one place where they can't get you - the Manitou House."
"Provided I don't suffocate first," Alana said.
One long drive later, all three piled out of the car. Alana made sure to overdramatically gasp for air after having been crushed between Journey and all her spare luggage, like the backpack full of stuffed animals.
"Well, at least that saves us one trip of having to go back for all your baggage," Mara said, "Here we are...your new home. The Manitou House."
"Excuse me, when did I say anything about wanting to move here?" Alana said, looking over the rather tall boarding house.
"You cant' exactly expect to go back to the dorms at the university, can you? They saw your face. All of our faces, really. This is one of the few places where Topham's magic can't reach. They'll have placed sentries there looking specifically for us, and if you do, they'll capture you or worse."
"And how do I know you're not working for this Topham person yourself?"
Mara reached into a pocket and pulled out something that looked like a stone, engraved with something.
"This is an 'Oathstone'. When you hold it, you cannot tell a lie. My...husband made it to control me. Not that way, he's no domineering man. I am a Gumiho...Lying is like, ninety five percent of what I do; this oathstone keeps me from deceiving people when I do not mean to."
Journey just stared at it as Mara put it into her pocket again.
"Right right right, you owe me some explanations now. Who was this Sharlow guy? And was he related to the emo person I saw who turned into some guy who looked like Dr. Victor Von Doom?"
"That was De-"
Alana had a mouth covered by one of Mara's silvery tails.
"Don't say it. You may inadvertently get their attention and we'd have Incarnations waiting for us to leave. It's bad enough that he got in...what did you call him?"
"Skeleton Head," Alana said, pushing the tail away.
"We'll just give them nicknames. Who was this person you faced?"
"Someone with a metal mask, like I said they looked like Dr. Doom if...well, just some robed guy in an iron mask."
"Well let's call him Dr. Doom," Mara said, "I've...never met anyone with that name."
"Right, so who was he?" Journey asked.
"An Incarnation. He's working for Gregor Topham, the minister of the occult and head of the Twentieth House."
"Incarnation? Like some kind of Demon?"
"Exactly," Alana said, "Come on inside." She unlocked the door to the boarding house and walked in, turning on some of the lights.
Mara lead Journey inside, who still held onto her backpack full of plushies and her purse that had Leopold inside. Almost immediately, Journey could tell that something was up there. She had almost never been to any place with magic before, yet in this house, she could identify it right off the bat.
Almost everything seemed to have some kind of magic energy pulsing out of it. There was a large chandelier that seemed to light by itself, random pieces of paper with some kind of Asian language sticking to the wall, and a tapestry.
"So this is this Manitou house? Where are all your other friends then?" Journey asked.
"You're looking at them," Mara said, "Just about everyone in our little resistance has been captured by Topham and his cohorts. See?"
Mara led Journey over to a wall, beyond a rather large room that could have been the dining room. For some reason, Journey thought she could have smelled some kind of animal as they passed another room, but she couldn't quite place her eyes on it. Mara gestured to the wall, and Journey looked over it.
Similar to how most families have a wall dedicated to showing off accumulated art or family pictures, the Manitou House had a wall dedicated to showing off its various 'members'. Journey looked over some of the pictures, before Alana turned on the lights and gave her a better view.
Just about every picture displayed some person, as well as their name. Journey looked over some of them. One picture showed someone who had a shaven head, yet also had a rather nice smile to him. For some odd reason, it was completely greyed out. Journey looked the name on the picture.
"Keith Stockman - MIA"
Journey looked over at some of the other pictures. Another picture showed a rather unusual looking person - someone who could only be described as a bull-like figure. Like Keith Stockman's photo, this one was also greyed out.
"Vyron Papoulias - MIA"
Journey looked over the other photos. Some of them appeared to display humans, while a few others seemed to show somewhat animalistic ones, maybe they were those were-beasts she had heard so much about. Despite the diversity of the figures represented in the photos, almost all of them were greyed out with a "MIA" next to their names. All of them, except for three.
One of which was a picture of Alana, which didn't have anything listed next to her name. Mara was another, right next to a picture of an Asian man labeled, "Daisuke Sakuraba". However, she looked at the third picture and her eyes raised. It was of Sharlow.
Sharlow looked to be a few years younger in the picture, however instead of greyed out like everyone else's, his picture was covered in red, and there were a few other marks on it, one of which being some kind of sharpie. Instead of a simple name, the word "Traitor" graced the spot where the label went.
"It's better you find out now than later," Mara piped up, "Sharlow used to be one of us. He's an exorcist. It's a bit ironic that he's embracing forces of evil, really. There's no way he's there under mind control...if there is, it's got to be more than mind control. I don't know exactly what happened, but I assume that he was tempted by an Incarnation for more power. All of a sudden, we have two Incarnations right in the house, having followed him right on in, and he tried to exorcise all of us. It's been eleven years since that day."
"Why do you still have his picture up here if he turned traitor?" Journey asked.
Alana looked away and walked into another room. She wanted to leave Mara alone with their new recruit. Plus, it was a bit hard on her, remembering Sharlow's betrayal.
"You can just say we were lazy, but his picture was left on the wall as a reminder to what not to be. We have had people who left Manitou House of their own accord, like Delia. However, we've never had anyone so...callously turned their backs on us and take down two of our own members. Over here."
Mara turned Journey's attention to the other wall - once again it was aligned with photographs, yet these were all in colour. In the dead centre of the wall, there was a plaque with words inscribed on it. Thankfully, they were in English.
"To all of our fallen comrades - may you never be forgotten."
"This is where we honour our fallen friends. Sharlow's not...worthy to be placed on here. Even if he were killed, we'd sooner place his photo in the fire than on this wall. He took these two people with him when he turned his back on us."
Mara pointed to two photographs on the wall - a man and a woman. Disturbingly, they had a familiar name: Miller. Journey knew she saw it somewhere, and fairly recently too. Journey turned around and her eyes went immediately to Alana's picture. There it was - Alana Miller
"Let me guess," Journey said, "Sharlow killed Alana's parents."
"Exactly," Mara said, "Well, it was not actually Sharlow, but a few Incarnations who had entered the house with him. Sharlow is actually unable to kill any living person, and he cannot use his powers to harm, only in self-defense. That's why he was goading you to attack him. He is proof, if any more is needed, that good powers can have bad people wielding them."
"...I see," Journey added, "So, I'm now fighting with you it seems. What good do you think I'm going to be? I threw freaking stuffed animals."
"From what I've seen, you might be what we call a 'controller'. Like Alana is. Alana? Care to demonstrate?"
"Sure thing!" Alana called from the other room. A few minutes later, Journey heard a bit of a metallic sound tinking to her. She looked down to investigate it, and spotted a toy soldier. Yet it did not have a wind-up key like normal others.
"Controllers are essentially able to control inanimate objects, such as changing them, or summoning them. You know, such as Alana's tin soldiers."
Journey suddenly remembered - Leopold grew to a massive size, and moved as she commanded him to. The Panda Bear plush even tackled people and rolled after them. Just like the elephant did. But why did Leopold change so much?
"Wait, I have this stuffed animal, Leopold. When I fought Dr. Doom, he grew to like, over fifty times his normal size and I was able to ride on top of him. But I haven't gotten him to do it again."
Journey reached out and took out Leopold. Thankfully he was still intact. Alana had by this point walked back into the room to observe the events.
"This doll?" Mara asked, looking at Leopold.
"I made him when I was young - I take him nearly everywhere. When Dr. Doom showed up, Leopold pretty much beat the hell out of him. So much that I cracked his armour or something. I don't remember what I did...uhm...Grow!"
Leopold did nothing.
"You cracked his armour?" Mara asked.
"Yes...maybe he has to be on the ground. Let's try this! Grow!" She gently tossed Leopold on the floor. As he did so, he soon got bigger and bigger, eventually pushing Mara and Journey back as the plush grew so much larger.
"That's it?" She asked, "Wow...I did it!"
Mara stepped back and looked over the giant stuffed leopard.
"Yep, definitely a controller alright. Now, what was this about breaking his armour?"
Journey looked over at Alana and Mara.
"Well, Leopold gave him the old one-two, repeatedly threw him around, and then all of a sudden he's on his back with something glowing in there. Is that like his core or something?"
"Holy shit!" Alana said, "You exposed his stone. All you needed to do was crack it and then you've sent him back out of the world. Topham couldn't have summoned that guy for another decade or so!"
"Well, next time, I'll have to crack it!" Journey said.
"It won't be that easy," Mara said, "He must have not had his guard up when you fought him. He'll have his guard up if he comes after you again. We're likely to need more firepower, too."
Journey sighed, as Leopold bent his oversized head over a bit.
"Let's just get down to business," Mara said, "Will you join us? Will you join the Manitou House?"
Journey looked over at Alana and Mara. It was rather hard to believe what she went through - yet she was being offered some kind of hope.
"I'll do it," She said.
Hey guys I promise there will be TF soon. As in actual TF.
Many of this stuff is new content to the story - namely I added Qwopping. The Iron Man did not originally do this - instead he simply sang Iron Man. I think Qwopping is a tad more...funny. :P