INTO THE DARK: A Marshall Lee and Fionna Story
CHAPTER ONE: BALANCE
Somewhere in the Land of Aaa, there exists a Dark Forest. Should you ever find yourself lost in those deep woods, there is a good chance you'd never find your way out. Now, it was never easy getting to that area in the first place, and the Keep Out and Danger signs should be enough to steer away any sane person. Even before that, you'd have to pass the Candy Kingdom (which would be a much nicer place to stay, don't you think?), the Grasslands (where you'd find a very radical treehouse, thankyouverymuch), and the Hole in the Center of the World (which wasn't REALLY bottomless, according to rumor). If none of those locations caught your attention, you'd find yourself in the eeriest forest outside of the Nightosphere.
Currently, there was a young human girl lost in the Dark Forest, shoving her way through the thick branches, crushing dead leaves beneath her black shoes, and grumbling because she was covered, head to toe, in troll goo.
How long had she been out there anyway? It had been afternoon when she had chased the massive troll into these woods, hesitating only briefly before rushing in, sword blazing. The troll had stolen a treasured document from the Hot Dog Prince, and it was her duty as professional adventurer to retrieve it. Which she did, but not before the troll exploded into a gooey mess deep within the Dark Forest.
She paused and held her arms out to her side. The motion made a sickening sticky squish, and she was reminded of the time she spilled waffle syrup on her shirt. With a sigh, she looked upwards. It was late and dark out. What little light existed from the waxing crescent moon was shaded by the thick overhanging of dead branches, casting the area into darkness. A time or two as she traveled, she swore she caught red glowing eyes peering at her behind trees or in the bushes. The feeling was shrugged off. Whatever, she was an adventurer. Bring it on, creepers, and she'd just hack you to pieces.
Rubbing her hands on the clean parts of her skirt, she reached inside her backpack and retrieved the treasured document of the Hot Dog Kingdom. Scanning over the elaborate, gold-printed paper, she realized it was the official guest list of the Annual Hot Dog Ball, along with the addresses of each resident invited. She risked her life for this?
If she had been someone else, someone on high alert because of her surroundings, she may have spotted the two eyes watching her every move carefully in the darkness. Then again, the eyes belonged to a master predator, and even if a lost little human had been listening for any motions in the forest, it would be unlikely the creature would be detected.
While the girl scanned over the guest list on the paper, seeing if anyone she knew was invited, a dark shape moved silently toward her, its face contorted into something straight out of a nightmare. The sudden drop in temperature made Fionna's gaze lift up just in time to see a large monstrosity of a creature, all sharp teeth and blood red eyes, rushing toward her.
She shrieked loudly, clutching the guest list against her sticky body with one hand and reaching for her sword with the other. Glob it, where was her sword?! Her hands were shaking, and she couldn't find it. She could ALWAYS find her sword.
The creature stopped right in front of her face, staring right into her terrified eyes like it was gloating in its success, and just when she knew the creature was going to open that razor-like maw and devour her whole, its face shifted, bones twisting in a manner that she had seen before. The red eyes dulled to an eerie black, the form crackling and snapping back into something more humanoid and familiar. Laughter erupted from the creature before it was completely finished transforming. "Your face, Fi!" the pale being stated between laughs.
"Marshall!" she shouted in indignation, and he barely had time to dodge the fist that headed his way.
She glared daggers into him, stomping one foot in frustration as he floated a few feet ahead of her, just out of her reach. His axe bass was carried on his back, the strap crinkling his red plaid shirt. "That wasn't funny," she stated.
"Lighten up, that was hilarious."
Frowning, Fionna pried the prized documents from her sticky body, horrified when she saw some of the names and addresses were smeared. Not wanting to damage the paper any further, she twisted it up and shoved it in her backpack.
Sensing it was safer to approach the last human in Aaa, Marshall took his bass and began playing a few melodic notes on it, drifting closer to the girl. "So what's a little hero like you doing in the Forest of Death?"
"Important mission from the Hot Dog Kingdom." She straightened the ears of her bunny hat and began her trek through the woods again.
Marshall kept up with her stride, floating beside her as his fingers traveled over the strings of his guitar. "There are lots of dangerous creatures in these woods."
Fionna hoisted the backpack higher on her shoulder and glanced over to him. "Friends of yours?" There was no hint of sarcasm in her voice; just simple curiosity.
"Nah, don't know 'em."
She wasn't sure she wanted to meet the creatures even if he did know them. Marshall Lee did not keep the best of company.
"It's not dangerous for an Adventurer like me." she commented. "I slay monsters on a regular basis."
He smirked, and she could tell he was resisting the urge to mock what he considered her goody-two-shoes heroic side.
"You were traveling in these woods alone," she pointed out.
He raised one shoulder in a nonchalant shrug. "I'm the Vampire King," was his answer.
It struck her as funny because she had never met another vampire in her life. She wondered where his kingdom was, if he really had any authority over the other vampires, or if it was just a title.
When it came to Marshall's pranks and morbid sense of humor, the citizens of Aaa were divided. Some of the people saw the vampire's arrival as a threat. He was an undead, a bloodsucker, and they were convinced that if given a chance, he would sneak into their houses at night and drain them of blood. Everyone else saw his spooky pranks for what they really were- Nothing more than harmless jokes, like a haunted house on Halloween. So used to the pastel colors of Aaa and the monotony, the Vampire King's taboo style and morbid rock music was a thrill that they craved, and he was a popular party guest in many of the kingdoms. Although these citizens liked him, they still kept him at a safe distance. Because try as they may, they still had trouble fully trusting him. It was one thing to respect the Vampire King; it was another to be friends with him.
Marshall Lee had been one of Fionna's best friend for four years now, and she was accustomed to his mischievous prankster side. As far as vampires go, he could actually be really cool when he wanted to be. And she trusted him.
They walked in silence for a while. The music he played was calming her nerves, causing her mind to dull as she focused on the path ahead of her and enjoyed his music. Even the biggest Marshall-haters in the Land of Aaa had to admit he was musically talented, and Fionna was inclined to agree. Some of her favorite outtings included him playing his newest song for her atop a grassy hill.
After a while, Marshall asked, "Where's the furball? Did she decide not to tag along for this adventure?" He suddenly glanced down at her, amusement lighting up his eyes. "Or did she get scared of the dark?"
Cake could be called many things, but a scaredy cat was not one of them. Fionna and Cake had battled sand beasts and underworld skeletons and crazy candy people who drooled sprinkled frosting. The duo had bravely towered over some of the biggest threats in the land without once flinching and come out on top. However, when brought face to face with a live vampire, Cake was reduced to a terrified mess. After knowing the vampire for a few years, she gradually started to warm up to him, but Marshall Lee still loved frightening the cat whenever he was given a chance.
Fionna kicked a rock ahead of her, and it skidded to a halt against a distant tree. "On a weekend date with Lord Monochromicorn. I've got the next three days to myself." She blew the bangs out of her face with an over exaggerated sigh. "Ice Queen's been eerily quiet, and it's been kinda slow on the adventuring side, so I had to go look for something to do." Truth be told, she was starting to regret it. This walk back home was becoming more trouble than it was worth. "What were you doing in the Dark Forest?" she asked.
He placed his bass around to his back and moved to hover upright next to her, hands in his skinny jean pockets. "Just practicing a bit. I needed inspiration for my next concert."
"Wicked place for inspiration, dude."
He grinned, shrugging. "What can I say? I have a reputation to maintain."
A branch snapping in the forest caught her attention, and she stopped in her tracks and listened. Silence. "What was that?" she asked, a note of caution creeping into her voice.
When he didn't answer, Fionna looked up at him.
Marshall Lee's eyes were no longer on her. His expression was intense, and he had his narrowed gaze locked on something she obviously couldn't see with her human eyes. A chill ran over her skin, goosebumps traveling over her arms. One hand reached behind her back to clutch at her sword in case whatever THAT was wasn't friendly. She followed his gaze, seeing nothing in the surrounding forest. The thick trees were silent and still. Her eyes returned to him.
"Marshall?" she ventured softly. No answer. Her foot took one cautious step toward him
And just like that, the spell broke. Fionna was back in the Dark Forest with her vampire bud, and somehow, the area was less dangerous. He glanced down to her, and she could suddenly breathe again. "Yeah, Fi?"
Crossing her arms over her chest to calm her nerves, she stated, "I want to get out of this forest."
He ran his fingers through his ink-black hair. "Yeah. I think I do too, man." His feet touched the ground next to her, and he said, "I'm over it."
Fionna took the hint and, gathering up her resolve because flying did make her nervous, wrapped her arms around his neck. His hand went under her knees to lift her bridal-style, and she had just enough time to clutch onto his plaid shirt before they were lifted up.
The gust of air tangled against her hair and took her breath away as they climbed higher. They moved fast through the tree limbs with Marshall somehow managing to dodge each obstacle in his path. "Hold on, kid," he stated, and she obediently closed her eyes, tightening her grip around his neck. In an instant, they burst free of the forest, snapping the thin branches near the treetops and soaring into the open skies.
Sensing it was safe, Fionna turned to look down at the Dark Forest fading into the distance. She let out a breath she didn't know she had been holding and leaned her head against Marshall's shoulder. The coolness of his skin was noticeable even through the layers of clothing he was wearing. This, combined with the chill of the night air, caused a shiver to flutter over her body.
Marshall Lee glanced down at her, noticing the way the gunk from her clothing was getting all over his favorite clothes. "Geez, you smell like a troll vomited its guts on you. No wonder a monster hasn't devoured you yet."
Her face turned a delightful shade of red, and Marshall couldn't tell if it was from embarrassment or annoyance. "Only cause I was fighting the bad guy and saving the day. You could have helped, dude."
"Nope. A piece of fancy paper isn't worth ruining my stylin' clothes over."
But carrying her home was?
She dropped the subject and instead focused on facing her fears of the undead's method of travel. After all these years, she thought she would have been used to it. After all, Marshall had never dropped her before, and he had escorted her off into the skies many times. It was just the thought that one tiny slip up, a movement of the hands or a simple turn of the body could send her plummeting to her doom below. Of course, if on the off-chance that happened, she was pretty sure Marshall could and was willing to catch her before she hit the ground. Years ago when both her and Cake fell from a mountaintop, he easily caught the two and drifted them to safety. Still, the idea scared her, so she tried not to think about it. At least she wasn't facing her fear of water
And with that thought, she realized they were flying over a large open lake. Of course. Something inside her snapped, and she panicked. Staring in horror at the waters beneath them, she blindly began grasping for anything she could get her hands on- the neck of his axe-bass, for example, or the collar of his shirt.
"Relax, Fionna, I've got you," Marshall said, struggling to keep hold of the wiggling adventuress in his arms. When one of her hands grabbed one of his rather sensitive pointed ears and tugged it roughly, he let out a snake-like hiss and let her body drop, catching hold of both her hands before she plummeted to the lake below.
With wide, panicked eyes, she stared up at the floating boy above her, who looked a little too self-satisfied about their current predicament. "You do need a bath, Fi," he stated. "I'd be doing you a favor."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "You wouldn't."
"Wouldn't I?" he grinned, giving her a glimpse of one fang against his lip.
She scrunched up her nose and glared harder, promising in her head an assortment of cruel and unusual punishments if he let her slip a fraction of an inch further.
Pulling her up into the air, he easily brought one hand under her knees and the other behind her back and caught her effortlessly.
Even after landing in the safety of his arms, her glare didn't lighten up. "You suck, Marshall Lee."
With a roll of the eyes, she turned to see where they were headed. Over the horizon, the dim lights of the Candy Kingdom glowed, casting the surrounding sky in a tint of cotton candy pink. It was a direct contrast to the dark, dangerous forest they had just emerged from- The world that Marshall felt so comfortable in. With a sigh, she once again leaned her head against his shoulder and stared at the beauty of the kingdom in the distance where her other royal friend lived. It was late, so Gumball would be asleep already. His empire was so powerful and obvious. Yet again, she wondered where Marshall's kingdom was.
She turned her head back to the undead teen, taking in his face in the light of the moon. A few weeks ago, she had been at one of his rock concerts and heard a few of the wilder demon girls talking about how attractive he was and how they would loooovee to take him home. It would be a lie if Fionna said that she didn't get some small enjoyment at their surprised faces when Marshall walked up to her after the show to asked if she wanted to go chill for a while.
Looking at the thin slope of his nose, the curve of his cheekbones, and the forever youthful features of his face, she admitted that they were right; Marshall Lee was an attractive guy. And then, as though betrayed by her thoughts, a deep blush highlighted her face, and she ducked her head so he wouldn't notice.
This time, her eyes caught the two deep scar bitemarks on the side of his neck. After all their time together, he had never once told her how he got those scars. Was he born a vampire, and those were just wounds from a battle with another vampire? Or was he changed? If he was changed, what was he before, and how did his mom fit into the equation?
Maybe one day she'd just straight up ask him.
Before long, Marshall landed effortlessly at her front door and sat the young adventuress' feet onto the ground. She scooted her dark blue miniskirt further down her thighs where it had ridden up during the flight before standing straight. "Thanks, Marshall."
"Not a problem." He crossed his arms over his chest. The attempt to look cool and nonchalant failed slightly due to the faint stains across the front of his shirt. "If you're looking for something to do tomorrow, you could swing by my place. We could play some music, smash some pixies, terrorize Gumball. I don't have any plans."
"Sounds algebraic, dude. I'll have to see if the Ice Queen will give me a day off first though." Tomorrow was a Monday. Ice Queen loooved kidnapping princes on Mondays.
As Fionna stepped into her house and started to close the door, a red tennis shoe blocked the way. Surprised, she looked up to see Marshall still standing in the doorframe, appearing oddly serious.
"Hey, Fi?" Was that a hint of concern she registered in his voice? Her eyebrows drew together in confusion. "Don't go into the Dark Forest alone again, okay?"
Before she could answer, Marshall floated into the air and winked at her, back to his normal self. He raised two fingers in the eternal "rock on" gesture, and flew backwards into the sky.
For a moment, Fionna didn't move from her spot in the doorway. What was that about? It occurred to her that maybe Marshall had stuck with her in the Forest because there was something dangerous out there. With a huff, she slammed the front door shut. She was Fionna the Human, Adventuress and Heroine of Aaa! She could take care of herself.
Next Chapter: Horror Movie Interlude