Olivia awoke to the sounds of singing. She excitedly leapt out of her bed in the log cabin. In no time at all, she was promptly dressed in her blue sweater and jeans. She looked at her hooded cloak hanging in the corner of the cabin.
“Your time will come again, old friend,” she said to the cloak in a mock gravelly voice. She turned to a table behind her and looked down at Mother Martyr’s veil. Davy had previously asked if she wanted to take it for herself and make use of its lightning powers. Olivia had declined. Her powers were cool enough already, and she wasn’t too keen on having to carry some crazy lady’s nasty old hat around everywhere anyway. It was probably better for them to keep it in the cabin for safekeeping. She smiled and picked up a plate before going out the front door.
She was in a bright, green forest, a vivid blue sky shining overhead. She bounded down the dirt path in front of her as colorful insects flew up to greet her, singing in perfect harmony.
It’s such a wonderful morning!
Sunshine all abound!
There’s no way I can lose my smile,
When I know that you’re around!
Olivia blushed as she approached the nearest tree. She held up her plate and three slices of sizzling, freshly cooked bacon plopped down right on top of it. As she continued down the path, Olivia struggled to imagine how anyone could not immediately fall in love with a meat forest.
She passed Mandy the spider, who gave a friendly wave with one of her eight appendages.
“Good morning, Olivia,” Mandy said. “You are rockin’ that sweater, girl!”
“Thanks,” Olivia replied graciously. “Did you have a good night?”
Mandy gave Olivia a wicked grin. “You could say that,” she chuckled. “Terrence and I had some fun with some friends.”
“Oh you two,” Olivia laughed. “Hope you stay out of trouble.”
“Heh, don’t worry. We will,” Mandy chortled as Olivia continued down the path. Olivia had failed to notice the cluster of feathers stuck to Mandy’s hairy mandibles or the ripped black tank top at Mandy’s feet.
Olivia finally reached a wooden picnic table in front of a large tree. Sitting at the table, not yet completely awake, but eating a bowl of cereal was Davy. Olivia sat down next to Davy as the insects encircled the two of them, still singing about sunshine and smiles.
“Good morning,” Davy said.
“Good morning, buddy,” Olivia replied. She began to tear into her bacon. “How could you guys ever not love this place as much as I do?” she asked.
“It used to look kind of different,” Day answered. “The first time we were here, everyone was trying to scare us. Things are a little different now that Steve owns the place.”
A door opened up in the large tree and Steve stepped out. He was wearing a robe and holding a cup of coffee and was clearly not happy to be awake. A group of butterflies flew up to him and continued to sing.
“Honestly, I think I liked it better when you were screaming at me,” he said to the butterflies.
A shiny blue dragonfly wearing a miniature top hat flew up to Steve. “But we were just acting then,” it sang to Steve in a comically high-pitched voice. “We love to sing, and we love you, Steeeeeeve!”
Steve grumbled and swatted the dragonfly away. He sat down at the table across from Davy. “When are we going to do something?” he asked indignantly. “It’s been like a week.”
“Yeah,” Olivia interjected. She looked up at the forest around her in wide-eyes wonder. “A week of magic!”
Davy understood Steve’s agitation. He had a feeling that once he came back home to Bayou City, he would receive some sort of sign on where to go next. But Steve was right. They had been back a week, and there had been nothing. Davy needed something soon. He needed an excuse to keep not going to his law school classes, though he would never say that out loud.
Davy looked up from his cereal bowl and saw that Lady Gut Possum had appeared out of nowhere. She was wearing the same pink frilly dresses that she wore the first time they met. It still looked like it desperately needed to be washed.
“Lady Guy Possum!” he shouted. “You’re back!”
Lady Gut Possum nodded. “I don’t have much time, Steward,” she said. She sat down next to Steve, who didn’t seem thrilled to have a rancid possum lady right next to him.
Olivia held her hands to her face excitedly. “You’re real,” she gasped. “And just as amazing as I imagined!”
Lady Guy Possum looked at the three of them. “I see you’ve found two of your companions,” she stated. “You have done well.”
Steve leaned back in his seat. “Thank you,” he replied. “I look to think of myself as a valuable addition to the team.”
Lady Gut Possum looked Steve in the eyes. “You certainly do,” she said.
Davy figured this was the time for some questions. “Uh, Ms. Gut Possum,” he began. “I spoke to Mother Martyr. And this alligator in a suit. They told me things, about this quest.”
Lady Gut Possum appeared to have pulled a cup of tea out of nowhere. She took a sip. “I imagine what they told you is true,” she stated. “Your destiny is to collect these artifacts, so that the Endocrine may use them to stop your world from being conquered by the Grumblegator.”
“His name is the Grumblegator?” Olivia asked. “That is both really stupid and really cool.”
Lady Gut Possum took another sip of her tea. “The Grunblegator intends to use the same artifacts to bring about the destruction of your world. He currently possesses the remaining artifacts and has entrusted them to his subordinates in order to wreck chaos. You must take these artifacts back from him.”
“But where did the Grumblegator come from?” Davy asked.
Lady Gut Possum paused. “He is from another world,” she answered. “Another realm of existence. As am I.”
Another realm of existence. Davy felt like this was probably a major scientific revelation, likely undermined by the fact that he was at the center of it. “Is there anyone else from your realm that is in our world now?”
Lady Gut Possum had finished her tea. She extended her long tongue and ravenously locked up the remaining tea from her cup. When she finished, she said, “Yes, there are others. Including the previous owner of this residence. The man formerly known as Barnaby Willacre.”
Davy’s stomach sank. “So is he really dead then?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes. Transmutated into tungsten. And no, I do not understand why tungsten, of all possible substances. My people have found him and taken him in, but we are not hopeful.”
Davy wasn’t thrilled to hear this. After Barnaby Willacre and Vulcan Hephaestus, was anyone else going to die? Davy didn’t think he was important enough for people to die in his name.
Lady Gut Possum sensed Davy’s apprehension. “This just demonstrates why we need you. Collecting the Artifacts of Rebisome is the only way to stop the Grumblegator from hurting more people.”
“So what do we do next?” Olivia asked. “What kind of wacky hijinks are we getting into now?”
Lady Gut Possum stood up again. She looked at Davy. “You must go west. To your city called Sangre Dios. You will meet your final companion upon arriving there. You will also meet a league that will be a malevolent counterpart to your own group. They are aligned with the Grumblegator. Stopping them will lead you to the next artifact.”
Lady Gut Possum’s already serious tone became more serious. “But be cautious, Steward,” she said with narrowed eyes. “This league. It is very annoying.”
Lady Gut Possum dust off he dress. She was preparing to leave. “Do you have any questions?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Steve snapped. “Why did you wait a week before getting back to us?”
Lady Gut Possum thought for a second. “I was busy,” she said. After a moment, she added, “I also thought you would enjoy spending some time with these wonderful singing insects.”
A butterfly flew up to Lady Gut Possum and landed on her finger. Lady Gut Possum looked at it and smiled, right before she shot out her tongue at the butterfly like a frog and swallowed it whole. “They are wonderful,” she beamed.
“Gross!” Steve exclaimed.
“Cool!” Olivia exclaimed.
And with that, Lady Gut Possum was gone. Davy was watching her the whole time, but couldn’t pinpoint in his head how Lady Gut Possum actually left. She just seemed to disappear.
Davy reached his spoon into his bowl and took a final bite of his cereal. He looked to his friends. “So I guess we’re going to Sangre Dios,” he said.
“I’ll pull up the bus schedule,” Steve gleefully chimed in. “One step closer to a new cappuccino machine.”