Chapter 3: Shades of Red
It was a pleasant day in the Land of Aaa. The skies were clear save for a few clouds. A gentle breeze cooled down the summer heat. And somewhere to the North, a village of white, fluffy cloud people shrieked in horror at the sight of an angry, bloodthirsty hellbeast.
All in all, it was a fairly normal day for a certain hero.
"Hey, ugly!" Fionna screamed to said hell beast, pointing her sword in case there was any doubt who "ugly" was.
Unhappy with the interruption of its reign of terror, it raised its head and roared in annoyance. As it marching over to its new opponent, Fionna got a good look at the beast. It was mainly a skeletal form with rags as clothes (though what it was covering, she honestly didn't know) and a faint blue glow in its chest. Nothing an Adventuress couldn't handle.
"Has anyone ever told you you look like the Lich's dumber, second-rate cousin?"
Either it understood her and didn't like the insinuation, or the creature was just an angry guy in general, because it lifted up one skeletal hand and shot a blue ball of energy toward the girl. She had seen this sort of attack a hundred times before, mainly from the Ice Queen. It was second nature to do a killer leap into the air, her legs kicking out dramatically. She raised the sword in an arc above her head, and swiftly swung it downward on the skeleton's shoulder. With a great crack like a tree branch breaking, the arm severed from the shoulder and fell onto the ground, where it smoked a pale grey before fading to nothing.
Fionna's feet connected on the discs of the monster's spine, sliding for a second before she found footing. For a fleeting second, her gaze sought out her sister before realizing Cake wasn't there; she was still on her mini romantic vacation. Feeling a bit annoyed with that situation, Fionna huffed out a breath. Heroes don't take breaks for romance! To prove her point, she darted up the creatures' spine like running up an oversized stairway. Its large, boney hand reached to grab her as if she was an annoying mosquito that needed to be destroyed. With a loud battle cry that would have put a warrior princess to shame, Fionna jumped once, hitting the creature's thumb, then leapt once more till she was flying in a downward arc. Her feet connected with its head, sending a shockwave through her legs, and she used the instant momentum to plunge her sword into its skull with a loud crack. The damaged area of bone instantly began glowing a bright blue light, followed by rays of static electricity flowing from every open space in its body. With a gasp, Fionna clutched her sword and took a leap toward the ground, dodge rolling to avoid further damage to her legs.
Behind her, the creatures' blue spirit exploded from its skeletal form with a loud screech. Then, with a pitiful whine, the lifeless husk collapsed to the ground and evaporated to nothing.
A beat of silence ensued. Then the next thing Fionna knew, she was surrounded by cheering fluff people, who danced around her and flung a necklace of flowers around her neck. "Uh
Thanks guys," she said awkwardly.
"You have saved us, Mighty Fionna!" a Crowned Fluff creature announced. "We shall have a feast tonight in your honor! Won't you join us?"
Fionna could think of very few things more awkward than eating dinner amongst hundreds of tiny fluffy people, so she said, "Thanks, everyone, but I can't stay. The world won't save itself, you know."
If it could, would the War have happened all those years ago?
And so, clutching the straps of her backback, she began her trek through Aaa to locate more people to save. But the world was at peace, satisfied with just one evil monster for the day. With nothing else to do, Fionna went to the Candy Kingdom.
Now, if there was one thing Fionna liked most about the pink, frosting-coated lands, it would have to be the smell. Even outside the gates, the Candy Kingdom smelled like cotton candy or caramel or sometimes gingerbread. The young adventuress was not a girly girl, nor was she particularly fond of the color pink (unless worn by a certain prince), but the light pastel colors of the Kingdom made her happy. She could never pinpoint why, but there was always a certain peace and comfort that the area brought. It reminded her that no matter how many monsters tried to destroy the world, there would also be a ray of hope and a world that smelled of cotton candy where she would always be welcomed. And home, she learned, was a very important thing in the Land of Aaa. Especially to a human.
As Fionna made her way through the Candy Kingdom, a black and red poster hanging on the side of a building caught her eye. The colors were a bit too harsh for that particular area, so she moved closer to get a look.
"One Night Only!" the flier announced. "The Vampire King in the Rock Event of the Century! Marshall Lee and the Horror Kings with the Wake the Dead Concert. Musical Guests include Electric Shock. Tickets Sold in Advance Only. Heads will Roll. Show Up
If You Dare." To emphasize this point, a photo of Marshall Lee was printed on the page, a menacing, fanged smile on his face as he held up his Axe Bass. His eyes glowed entirely red, and electricity flowed around him, making his hair stick up at wild angles.
Fionna smiled at his theatrics. Say what you would about him, but he definitely knew how to sell a show. She'd have to buy her ticket soon
Or just ask if Marshall had any spare tickets he could give her.
Making a mental note to mention it next time he was floating around, she headed toward the impressive castle in the center of town. She had been there countless times before, and the two candy canes standing guard barely gave her a second glance. The Peppermint Maid wasn't as easy to slip by, and the red and white striped assistant held up her hand as Fionna passed. "I'm sorry, Ma'am, but the Prince is busy this evening."
"Oh, he won't mind. He probably needs a break anyway."
"But, Ma'am, he is working on a highly sensitive scientific equation, and distractions are strictly prohibited."
"Science-y stuff? I can help with that. Like, hold beakers and be a guinea pig and all that. Thanks for the info, Pepper. See ya later!"
And that was enough to get passed the dumbfounded maid, who had been around long enough to know that there were few things she could do to stop the young adventuress.
Now, if Gumball were working on science-y stuff, he'd most likely be in two places: Either his room, where he often went to concentrate on formulas, or, if it was something major that needed more hands-on research, the lab downstairs. Since the Peppermint Maid tried to thwart her attempts at seeing the Prince, Fionna guessed the latter.
The door to his lab was unlocked, and she stepped through the dimly lit area. As expected, Gumball was in the middle of the room, sporting his white lab coat and a pair of large goggles. He held up a large Erlenmeyer flask and a droplet, squinting as he carefully added a drop to the blue concoction, which instantly turned it purple. "Hmm
Interesting," he muttered.
Next to him was a tall, clear glass tub that came up to his chest area. A humanoid shape floated in the center of a glowing bluish-green liquid. It was too dense to truly make out the details of the figure. Unceremoniously, Gumball dumped the contents of the flask into the tub, where it poofed loudly and emitted a pale pink cloud.
"Heya, PG," Fionna announced, and the Prince jumped in surprise.
"Fionna! I didn't notice you come in. How is my favorite adventuress?"
With a sigh, the human leaned against the edge of the glass tub and rested her arms and chin on its lid. "Boooorreeed," she whined. "There are no baddies to fight, and Cake's gone on some romantic get away or something." She rolled her eyes to show what she thought of that. "I'm just about to go crazy, dude."
"I'm sorry to hear that." He lifted the goggles onto his forehead to look at his guest. "You can hang out here for a while, if you'd like. I was just working on a breakthrough experiment, and I may need an extra set of hands. It's not exactly ogre-battling or dragon-slaying excitement, but it may alleviate the boredom."
A fond smile found its way to her face at his prim and proper tone. It was the tone he had been taught since childhood. "That's cool." Her gaze wandered down to the concoction in the tub, and she asked, "Whatcha sciencin'?"
"Do you remember that experiment I did a few years ago? With creating a proper ruler? I believe I have finally worked out the bugs in the formula."
"Oh," Fionna responded.
Prince Gumball feared death. She had figured that one out long ago from his many attempts to reanimate the dead or create a successor or stave off mortality. He worried about his kingdom going to the wrong hands when he died, and that was what often fueled many of his scientific experiments.
Fionna looked down into the tub of glowing sludge thoughtfully. "Hey, PG, can I ask you a question?"
The young royal had already went back to the science equation on his nearby dry erase board. "Of course."
"You know the Rainicorn Dog Wars? Was there ever a Human Vampire War too?"
"Not that I know of. Why do you ask?"
"I was hanging out with Marshall Lee the other day
"Not getting into too much trouble, I hope?" Gumball interrupted, glancing over to her with a raised eyebrow.
"No, we didn't even go into town. He had this movie from before the war with vampires in it, and they were killing all the humans. It was brutal."
"Ah. As far as I know, there was no war. That would be a question you'd have to ask Marshall Lee. He's been alive since then."
" As an afterthought, she added, "It was a really dumb movie anyway."
Gumball erased an equation on the board and replaced it with mathematical symbols that made little sense to Fionna. "I saw the fliers around town," he stated. "Will you be going to his concert?"
"Of course, I wouldn't miss it!"
He removed his goggles and massaged the area where they had indented his light pink skin. "I don't quite understand his concerts. It just sounds like a lot of loud noise and sweaty bodies in crowded areas. There's no logic behind it."
"You can't think of music like that. It comes from the heart and soul, and that stuff's completely not logical."
"Heart and soul, huh?" the prince mumbled, his eyes drifting slowly over to his creation. He mulled it over in his mind, then said suddenly, "Either way, I prefer things that make sense and have order. Chaos has never been appealing to me, and that's what Marshall's music sounds like."
Thinking of how hard Marshall would take that criticism if he heard it, Fionna was glad that the vampire bassist wasn't around. "You should go, PG. You may end up liking the show. Marshall's really good onstage, and it would mean a lot to him if his friends showed up."
"I don't know
"Come on, I'll go with you. I'll get Marshall to get us some tickets."
"Well, if I have no other plans that day, perhaps
Fionna leapt up excitedly and exclaimed, "Mathematical, PG, you won't regret it!"
The Prince sighed and massaged his temple. "Just
no where near the center of the crowd, okay?"
"I make no promises," she responded. "I'm a rock and roll party machine."
He rolled his eyes, already regretting the decision.
Maybe he could get out of it somehow
Get the Peppermint Maid to schedule an urgent meeting.
Even as he thought it, he knew it was too late. The deal was struck, and Fionna would not be satisfied till the Prince of the Candy Kingdom was a Mosh Pit Master.
Now, Fionna was not one to break a promise, but she was also not one to skip out on her heroine responsibilities. When these two noble characteristics clashed, she always did what felt right because she was always, first and foremost, a hero.
And if you wanted to get technical, she never really promised the Vampire King anything.
One her way back to the treehouse for the night, Fionna passed by the Dark Forest. It was evening, and the late afternoon setting sun dyed the skies a sharp shade of red and orange over the treetops. The colors silhouetted the jagged branches like clawed hands reaching skyward. It was dark and pretty, and when Fionna paused to admire the sight, the soft sound of crying caught her attention. The noise came from a nearby bush, and Fionna quickly darted over.
"Hello?" she called, pushing some branches out of the way.
There, hidden behind the leaves, was a tiny frog-like creature with a bucket strapped to his head. Thick tears poured from his eyes, and his knees were curled up close to his green body. A wheelbarrel full of apples lay on its side beside him, and the fruit surrounded his sobbing form. One apple had somehow managed to get into his bucket hat.
"Are you okay?" Fionna asked.
The creature shrieked, his eyes jumping toward the human girl.
"Hey, I'm not going to hurt you. I heard you crying, and wanted to see if I could help." She smiled in her most trustworthy, charming way.
Swiftly swiping away a stray tear, the creature swallowed, his wide, milky eyes staring up at her. "I
I was on my way through the Forest," he said, sniffling. "It was a shortcut, my friend said. And
and then there was this monster that came from nowhere. And it just snatched up my friend
Like he weighed nothing." His eyes closed, and his next words were a heartbroken wail. "And he ate him."
"Oh, whoa." She knelt beside the frog, whose full, standing form reached her waist. "I'm so sorry," she said, placing her hand on his shoulder. "Where did the monster go? I'm a hero, I fight bad guys all the time. I can avenge your friend."
When the frog looked at her, there was fear and worry in his watery gaze. "It's terrible. I've never seen anything like it."
Fionna held up the flowery trophy around her neck. "Look, see this? This was my reward for fighting a huge skeleton monster this morning and banished him to the Nightosphere. Trust me. I can handle anything that brute can throw at me."
The frog held up a shaky hand and pointed toward a large pathway through the forest.
A Forest that happened to be very Dark and foreboding.
Hearing Marshall Lee's warning ring in her ears, Fionna stood carefully and attempted to hide the sudden nervousness that fluttered through her stomach.
"Please be careful," the frog said softly.
As proof of her abilities, Fionna clutched onto her crystal sword and twisted it around with a flick of her wrist. Then, with a confident smile, she headed down the pathway and into the dark.
It was amazing how the thick, gnarled branches blocked out what little light came from the setting sun. As she followed the path of snapped limbs, she got the distinct impression that this would not be an easy battle. The mere width between the broken branches revealed the sheer intimidating size of this monster.
Don't go into the Dark Forest alone again, okay?
"Whatever, Marshall," Fionna muttered to herself. "I don't see you volunteering to save the world."
Her voice felt abnormally loud in the area, and she realized that it was very, very quiet. A shutter whispered along her spine, and she turned to look behind her. The forest swallowed the entrance altogether, casting the area into complete darkness.
Okay then. No looking back now.
She put on her brave face and moved forward. "Any monsters nearby?" she called softly, mainly to calm her own nerves. "Helloooo. Big bad evil demon creature? Come and face me like a man. Or woman. Or
.thing. Whatever you are."
No answer. Not like she expected there to be.
At some point, Fionna began to wonder how far she had traveled and if she would simply find herself on the opposite end of the forest altogether.
And it was at this point that she heard it.
Loud and soft at the same time, like a large creature making a low noise deep within its chest. That sound was enough to slow her movements. Cautiously, Fionna tiptoed around the corner to get a look at her opponent.
It was turned away from her, its massive body bent over something that she couldn't see. From her viewpoint, it looked like a big ball of coarse, black fur with a sharp spine emerging from its back.
Gathering her courage, Fionna pointed her sword in its direction and shouted, "Hey, ya butt! Turn around and fight me!"
The creature stood slowly, each disc of its spine cracking loudly with the movement, and turned to face her with a deep growl.
"Uh-oh," Fionna muttered.
It had to have been at least twenty foot tall at full height. Its head crushed the branches over its head, causing limbs to rain down around it. And if its sheer size wasn't formidable enough, its looks were. It had six eyes, all black like wet drops of ink. Its reptilian nose was embedded in its skull, and its bottom jaw was jutted out with numerous sharp fangs emerging from its lip. Its arms were extended to almost its ankles, with the fingertips stretching out into long, sharp claws.
The monster took one scowling look at Fionna and roared. The sound echoed through the quiet forest, and a flock of nearby birds took to the air.
Now, Fionna was not stupid. She knew when she was out of her league, and sometimes, even her noble heroic blood could be shoved aside for survival. Her foot took one half step back, and she muttered to herself, "Oh, my glob."
And with those words, Fionna --brave adventuress who had very little to fear except stupid bloody vampire movies -- turned on her little black heels and ran for her life. The creature, still quite angry with the interruption, followed.
"Not cool, not cool, not cool," Fionna chanted between breaths as she leapt over tree roots, ducked beneath low hanging branches, and slid on dead leaves to make a zig-zag turn and confuse her pursuer. Of course, when your opponent was the size of a house with six beady eyes (because two would be too flippin' logical), it was hard to escape.
Unless she did something so crazy stupid, it was certain to throw the monster off its game.
So Fionna, the mistress of stupid, did a 360 and ran headfirst toward her opponent, who slowed down in surprise at the young girl's actions. She held up her sword and, with a wild battle cry, stabbed it into the creature's foot. Unfortunately, she didn't think past this point, and her actions only served to further annoy the massive beast. With his injured foot, he flung both her and her toothpick of a sword into a nearby tree.
The impact ricocheted through her body, and she gritted her teeth together and arched her back to deal with the pain. The monster knew it had won. It turned its head sideways to examine its prey, a low growl emitting from somewhere in its chest.
Now, there is a very certain sound a bass makes when it collides with an object. The sound is deep and discordant and entirely unpleasant. That specific sound was never meant to exist, and when it did exist, it meant one thing to the young adventuress.
Suddenly hopeful, Fionna's gaze landed on the vampire that hovered above the creature. His axe bass was implanted firmly into its skull, which leaked a bright red from the injury.
"Marshall Lee!" she exclaimed.
He glanced at her, raised two fingers casually, then clutched onto the neck of his bass. His red tennis shoes landed on the monster's head so he could pry the weapon away. When he did, the creature swung one arm back to get rid of the new challenger. Its hand hit Marshall directly on the chest, and he flew backwards, did a backflip in midair, and landed in a vertical crouched position against a tree trunk. With a violent smirk, Marshall slung his jagged black hair out of his dark eyes and looked up at the creature, who had his attention directed entirely to the vampire. Perfect. Marshall used his crouched position as momentum and propelled himself away from the tree, flying fast toward his target. His axe bass swung like a baseball bat, and the sharp edge connected with two of the creature's right eyes. It howled in pain and clutched onto its bleeding eye sockets. While it was distracted, Marshall landed next to Fionna.
"Man, am I glad to see you," she stated.
"No time to talk," he responded. His hand wrapped around her waist, and before she had time to brace herself, they were flying fast through the forest. She shouted his name, her hands frantically wrapping around his neck and clutching onto his grey v-neck shirt. He ignored her panicked shouts and efforts. The trees passed by in a blur, and she couldn't distinguish which direction they were heading. How could he do this and not fly headfirst into an obstacle?
They burst into a clearing, which Marshall flew swiftly over, and landed on the opposite side near a group of dense trees. He let go of the human girl, and her legs wobbled as she planted both feet firmly on the ground.
"What the hell, Fionna?" Marshall exclaimed, his dark eyes gleaming with both annoyance and worry. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?"
Indignantly, she stuck out her bottom lip and glowered at him to preserve some of her pride. "No. Someone needed my help."
"Do you have to save everyone?"
"Yes. Of course I do!"
Her defiant glare met his unflinchingly as though daring him to say something negative about her decision. After a moment, he let out a defeated sigh and raked his fingers through his black hair. "I'll never understand heroes," he stated.
At that exact moment, the creature strode into the clearing, its damaged eyes having difficulty seeking out its prey.
Marshall exhaled deeply, glancing over to his opponent briefly before turning back to Fionna. "Okay, look, just stay here, alright? Don't move from this spot, and I'll save the day this time. Got it?"
He shoved his bloody axe into her hands. "And hold onto this. Don't lose it."
Fionna raised her eyebrows in surprise. "You don't need it?"
The white of his eyes evaporated like smoke till she was looking into two entirely black orbs. He smirked viciously at her. "Nope."
Dissatisfied with the sudden lack of bloodshed, the creature howled as though impatient.
"Yeah, yeah," Marshall responded, turning to face the monster. "Right back at ya, buddy." He cracked his fingers as each digit lengthened into claws. "So you wanna play like big bad monsters? I'm down with that."
With those words, jagged, leathery wings sprouted from his back and arched upward toward the sky, his arms and legs lengthened as his size grew, and his youthful face shifted into a more bat-like appearance. Fionna had seen this appearance before. He'd used it when they first met and she fought him to regain her home. But back then, it was more intimidation than anything else. This was different. Marshall rarely sought out battles, not caring enough about the citizens of Aaa to put out the effort. It had taken Fionna a while to understand it: As he had once told her, it wasn't that he was evil. After living so long, his moral code was skewed. Why should he save a complete stranger? If he didn't know them, he didn't care much for them.
Why would he save her
With narrowed, mocking black eyes, Marshall Lee waved one sharp-clawed hand to beckon the monster closer. His opponent took in his new size and shape, then growled deep and rushed forward with fangs bared.
"Be careful!" Fionna shouted, clutching the handle of his axe tighter for comfort.
Marshall caught the creatures' arms in his grasp, gripping hard until the creature gritted his sharp teeth together in pain. He pushed it backwards until it was taking heavy steps toward the center of a field. Then with one quick twist of his wrist, the cracking sound of breaking bones filled the area, and the creature howled in both agony and fury. It jerked its unharmed limb out of Marshall's grasp and swiped at him with its claws. The vampire moved out of range with one flap of his wings and dodged the attack. The beast quickly followed up by leaping and tackling the vampire onto the ground, its sharp teeth aiming for his jugular. Marshall Lee had been bitten once in his life, and he wasn't too keen on being bitten again, so he pressed his arm against the monster's throat to keep its snapping jaws away. Its claws managed to dig deep into Marshall's shoulder, and with gritted teeth, the undead king flung the monster off of him.
By this point, the creature was furious and full of blinding bloodlust, so it leapt up and took a run toward the vampire. Its fist connected with his stomach, and Marshall went flying back till his body connected painfully with a tree trunk.
Fionna happened to be standing nearby, and when this happened, she cried out his name. His solid black eyes landed on her briefly, and she gave him a concerned, helpless expression as though asking what she could do to help. But she couldn't get involved at this point, of course. She would just be in the way. When two very large creatures battled, it would be in a human's best interests to watch from the sidelines.
Satisfied that she wasn't hurt, Marshall Lee raised his gaze back to his opponent.
Now, from her many years of knowing the Vampire King, Fionna discovered that she could typically read his emotions from the color of his eyes. Normally, his pupil and iris were a simple, albeit eerie black. When he wanted to threaten, prank, or intimidate someone, the whites would fade to black too till his eyeballs were two dark orbs. When he was angry, his eyes would be a bright, occasionally glowing red. And when he was really, truly furious, his eyes would catch alight and burn with flames.
At that moment, Marshall was very irritated to say the least, and there was a spark within those inky depths of his gaze. "Okay," he muttered, and Fionna thought it was strange to hear his voice come from a large demon bat's body. "That actually hurt."
In an instant, Marshall was flying like a bullet toward the creature, his wings pressed against his body to give him speed. He clutched onto his opponent's throat and, with a flap of the wings, took a sudden turn upwards into the air. The two gained altitude in a tangle of wrestling limbs.
Fionna took one cautious step into the field to look up. The night sky camouflaged the two of them, and her eyes squinted to make sense of the shadowy figures in the distance. Then, with no warning, one figure separated from the other and began plummeting at a rapid speed toward the ground. For one brief, heart stopping moment, she thought it may be Marshall. This shadowed shape didn't have wings though, and it collided, feet first, onto the solid ground.
Marshall drifted downward, landing lightly in front of the creature. It had broken one leg in the fall and was struggling to stand.
With one talon-like claw, Marshall swiped at the monster's stomach, chest, and throat, and it doubled over in pain. Blood poured in thick drops over the grass, staining them a deep red.
To someone that didn't know Marshall Lee, it was often very difficult to tell he was somewhere inside his bat form's mind. But when he smiled in that cocky way he was known for, or when he tilted his head or crinkled his nose in a teasing manner, Fionna could see it. It was her best friend Marshall Lee, and he thought he had won. His opponent had a broken arm, a broken leg, and numerous injuries. And for Fionna, who saw her good friend in the bat creature, the unexpected turn in the battle was all the more horrifying.
The monster looked up at Marshall with pure hatred in its eyes. Its next move was borne out of adrenaline and desperation. It leaned back and stabbed quickly toward the vampire's chest with its uninjured hand. Its blade-like talons easily tore through flesh and bone. Marshall blinked in surprise and took a few staggering steps backwards. When his back pressed against a tree, the creature struck again, this time, shoving his sharp-clawed hand into his chest. Marshall gritted his teeth together in pain. Blood poured in rivulets down his lip. He grasped onto the monster's hand as though to feebly pry him away.
The creature's final move was a death strike. With its needle-like teeth, it tore into the vampire's throat and took away a large chunk of flesh. Marshall's eyes grew wide, the muscles in his neck working as though to breathe or swallow. And to Fionna's horror, he began transforming back to his normal form. His black fur-covered skin turned to its normal grey, and his wings shrunk into his back until they were completely gone. His small, suddenly fragile-looking body slumped against the tree and slid, lifeless, to the ground.
No, no, no, that wasn't supposed to happen. For one heart-pounding moment, Fionna didn't know what to do. Stay there? Fight? Go check on her wounded friend? So she did the only thing she knew how to do. Blinking back oncoming tears, she hefted the axe bass into a battle position and ran headfirst toward the creature. She leapt high, jumping on its knee first, then its arm, and onto its shoulder. The axe bass was heaver than it looked, especially when Marshall carried around like it weighed nothing, and it took an effort for her to lift her trembling arms and swing the axe down into the monster's neck. The injured creature was already crouched in a kneeling position. One hand touched the ground to steady itself as the other lifted slightly as though wanting to push Fionna away, but not having the energy to. One more swing of the axe brought it down entirely.
Fionna rolled from its fallen shoulder onto the ground. Tossing the axe bass away from her, she stumbled in her rush to get to her friend, regained her footing, then fell on her knees beside his unmoving form.
"Marshall Lee!" she shrieked, her voice cracking.
His once-grey shirt was torn and covered in red. Blood formed a shallow pool around him and still poured from the open wound on his neck. His eyes were wide open and unresponsive, entirely black like they had been when he was in his bat form. Fionna cupped his face in her hands as tears flooded her vision and flowed freely down her cheeks. "No, no, no, no. Don't you dare die on me, Marshall!"
She bent her ear to his face to see if she could catch his breath, and when that didn't work, her hand went to his mouth and nose. Her own breath was held as she waited, hearing her own panicked heartbeat inside her ears. Nothing. Not even a whisper of a breath. Did vampires need to breathe to live? Damn it, why didn't he ever tell her these things?
Her next move was to check his heartbeat, but one glance at his mangled neck and chest told her it would be a difficult task. His skin was so tattered and bloody that she couldn't tell where the wound ended and his flesh began. Swallowing down her nausea, she pressed her hand against his chest, and when it simply sank down past his flesh into a puddle of mangled muscles, she shrieked and jerked her hand away.
Horrified, she stared at the bright red that coated her fingers. Her chest hurt as her breaths came in short, panicked puffs. With a wail, she clutched tightly onto his shirt and rested her forehead on his shoulder. She sobbed hopelessly, tears soaked into his gray v-neck. "What do I do?!" she cried. "I don't know how to save you."
She lifted her head and stared at him, desperately running her fingers through his black hair and grasping the strands lightly. "Marshall, please!" she begged. His hollow eyes stared up at her without recognition. And, because she had no other options in her frazzled state, she pressed her lips tightly against his as though it would somehow bring him back to life. It worked in fairy tales, so it could work now, right?
But Marshall Lee was no prince charming and Fionna was no princess, and when she backed away to look at him, nothing had changed. Heat flooded her face and dyed her cheeks a bright red as she realized what she had just done. In her head, she imagined that this was all just a prank. In a few seconds, Marshall would blink, and his eyes would go back to normal. His skin would heal immediately like she had seen in the past. And he would laugh at her and tease her for her blush and actions.
And in some alternate ending to that fantasy, he would touch the back of her head and bring her lips to his in a return kiss.
But none of that happened.
Fionna brushed her fingers over his eyelids to close his eyes. As gently as possible, she put her arms beneath Marshall Lee and shakily picked him up. Her body was weak from both physical and mental exhaustion, but she didn't know what else to do, and there was only one place she knew to go to. He weighed more than expected, and she struggled to walk as she made her way through the forest. How could someone that spent his time floating weigh so much?
Fionna didn't know how she did it, but she somehow managed to carry Marshall out of the Dark Forest and made her way through the fields of Aaa. Occasionally, she would fall to one knee, take a deep breath to compose herself, and stand, trembling, to continue her journey.
The castle gates to the Candy Kingdom were a welcome change in scenery. With her destination so close, Fionna gathered the strength to pick up speed. The smell of candy was suddenly sickening, and she dodged staring eyes and whispered rumors that were sent her way. Marshall's head rolled onto her shoulder, and she glanced down at him. "Hold on, Marshall, we're almost there."
Now, the Candy Kingdom Hospital's specialty was treating Candy People, and Candy People were made of Candy Biomass, which was very different from flesh and blood. But in all of Aaa, it was the only hospital Fionna knew of. When she kicked open the doors of the large building, the entire room went silent. The receptionist, various nurses, and families of the sick all stared, wide eyed at the injured body in her arms. Blood steadily dripped onto the white tile flooring, and for a long time, no one moved. Then Fionna, annoyed with the reactions, exclaimed, "Help him, okay?"
As though a spell was broken, the staff moved to action. A stretcher quickly rolled out of the backroom, and two nurses helped place him on it. No longer carrying him, Fionna fell to her knees on the floor, her breath ragged and her arms and legs aching from the effort. Doctors and nurses swarmed around him and began checking for vital signs. They wouldn't find any, of course. Marshall was already undead, whatever that meant.
After the initial check of his condition, the staff rolled him into the backroom. Fionna jumped up and moved to follow, but Dr. IceCream stepped in front of her and held up one hand. "I'm sorry, Fionna, but you can't go back there."
"What? Why not?"
"You'll only be in the way."
She looked over the Doctor's shoulder to the door window, seeing her friend carted off into an unknown room.
For a moment, no one spoke. Then the Doctor stated, "We can't treat him here, you know."
Fionna's gaze snapped back to the talking ice cream cone. "What?! You HAVE to!"
"We don't have the proper knowledge or equipment for him. We don't treat vampires here."
Now, the adventuress had been through one hell of a day, and she had just walked miles to get there. Her head hurt, she was exhausted, and worry was making her unstable. At those words, something inside her snapped, and she clutched onto the Doctor's white uniform. "You'll treat this one, or so help me glob, I will make sure you regret it."
He nodded, eyebrows high on his forehead. "We'll see what we can do."
Semi-satisfied with that answer, she let go of his uniform, noticing then the red hand prints that were left behind. With a sigh, she stepped back a few steps and collapsed into a nearby chair in the front lobby. Her blue shirt and skirt were stained various shades of red. The colors reminded her of violence and blushing cheeks. She pulled her cell phone out of her backpack and dialed her sister's number. As the phone rang in her ear, she curled into a ball in the chair, clutching her knees to her body.
The sound of Cake's voice in the receiver was the most comforting sound in the world. "Yello?"
"Cake," Fionna said softly, her voice cracking as she fought back tears. "I need your help."
"Fionna, baby, what's going on? Are you okay?"
"Can you bring a change of clothes and meet me at the Candy Kingdom Hospital?"
There was a beat of silence as the two-toned cat processed this request. "Fionna, are you hurt?"
"No." With her sleeve, Fionna roughly swiped a stray burning tear from her cheek. She swallowed, her eyes rolling toward the ceiling light to stave off the crying. "I think I just killed Marshall Lee."
Next Chapter: Of Saints and Monsters