Dipper and Mabel made it back to the Mystery Shack just as the rain was starting to slow. His hoodie plastered to his body, Dipper shivered as he walked up the wooden steps of the porch. "How are we supposed to explain this one?" he muttered as they hovered outside the door.
Mabel hummed thoughtfully. "We went for a swim."
Dipper lips quirked upwards. "I don't think that'll swing with him. I'll think of something."
He twisted the knob and the two filed into the house. They could hear the sounds from the television coming from the living room, the place they would have to sneak by in order to get to their room. Pressing a finger against his lips, Dipper started down the hallway. Mabel followed on her tiptoes, but her water-logged sneakers gave a rather loud squeak just as she was attempting to pass the entryway.
Stan swirled his head around and immediately locked eyes on his drenched niece and nephew. He frowned. "Are you two crazy or something?"
"No more so than you," joked Dipper, flipping back his hoodie. "It wasn't so bad when we set outside."
"After the weather we've been having, you should have figured we'd get a downpour," replied Stan. "Aren't you supposed to be the smart one?"
"It's just water," said Mabel cheerfully. "We're now super clean!"
"And you're getting water all over my floor." Stan pointed a stern finger at them. "You're cleaning it up."
"Yes, sir," said Dipper.
"What were you doing outside in the first place?"
"Just wandering about the forest," he said casually.
Stan's gaze sharpened. "You weren't out looking for trouble, were you?" he asked suspiciously.
Dipper mentally flinched. He sometimes forgot that Stan knew about the supernatural occurrences of Gravity Falls, especially since the man spent most of the summer pretending they didn't exist in order to protect them.
"Not looking for trouble," he assured.
Which was partly true. They weren't looking for trouble-not yet, anyway. They needed to find the blasted missing page in order to do that.
"I hope so," said Stan, not entirely believing the boy. "Get upstairs and out of those clothes. The last thing you need is to catch a cold. Then you can grab a mop and start cleaning."
"Okie-dokie," said Mabel, skipping ahead of her brother for the stairs. Dipper followed after her, wrestling out of his hoodie on the way. When they entered their attic abode, the twins got into dry clothes and put their wet ones in the hamper.
"Guess it's time to get reinforcements," said Dipper, slipping his favourite hat over his hair.
Mabel beamed. "Totally! I'm sure they'd be happy to help. They're only going to be here for another week, anyway. It's fine if we let them in on the journal's existence."
"Yeah, I suppose," agreed Dipper. "They're already aware of the weirdness that is our town anyway. I bet they can really help us with our problem."
"Should we go over there now?" asked Mabel, bouncing on her toes.
Dipper shook his head. "I think I'm going to wait for this rain to clear up. Plus, Grunkle Stan is going to kill us if we don't clean up our mess."
"Fair point, brother!"
The rain had cleared by the next morning, the sun shining brightly in the blue sky. The grass was soaking wet, but it was an improvement from the previous days. Dipper and Mabel completed their early morning shift at the Shack and immediately raced for the tourist cabins.
Remembering the cabin Phineas and Ferb had emerged from on their previous visit, Dipper strode up to the door and knocked. He was relieved when the redhead himself answered, his ever-present smile in place.
"Hey, guys! Glad you're here."
"Us too," replied Dipper. "Can we come in?"
Phineas stepped aside and the twins entered the cabin. Baljeet, Isabella and Ferb were lounging in their bunks and Buford was sprawled out on the floor, devouring a bag of chips. Isabella brightened. "Hey, Mabel!"
"Hi!" Mabel greeted happily. "What are you guys up to?"
"Nothing much," she replied, climbing down from her top bunk so she could sit on the floor. "Candace had to go to the hospital yesterday, so we decided to take it chill today."
Dipper frowned. "Is she okay?"
"Fine," assured Phineas. "Mom said she was really ill when Dad drove her to the hospital. But by the time she came back, she was fine. She has some medicine to help with her recovery. She's out walking with our parents at the moment."
"It's too wet to walk," said Buford through a mouthful of potato chips.
"We were debating on what else we could do," added Phineas. "You guys have any ideas?"
"Well…I sort have something serious to talk about," said Dipper slowly, suddenly feeling nervous.
"Shoot," said Phineas, dropping to sit on his bunk.
Mabel immediately went to sit beside Baljeet, who barely bat an eye at the suddenly close contact. He came to the decision that it was best to tolerate Mabel's advances, for he figured fighting them wouldn't do any good.
"Okay, so you know how this town has some crazy stuff going on with it?" asked Dipper.
"You mean like gnomes and magic and crazy earthquakes?" returned Buford.
Dipper nodded. "Yeah. I'm glad you brought up the earthquake, actually. I don't think it really was an earthquake."
Isabella slapped her knee. "I knew my gut instinct was right!"
Baljeet was perplexed. "What was it, then?"
Dipper slipped his hand inside his vest and removed his number one possession. He displayed to the group of kids, the golden six-fingered hand gleaming on the cover. "This is the journal. It was written by a mysterious author, the identity of whom we still don't know. It's full of profiles and histories and discoveries of all the weird things the author encountered during his stay in Gravity Falls."
Phineas was intrigued. "What does the three on the cover stand for?"
"This is the third journal he wrote," explained Dipper. "Gideon, the creep you encountered has the second one. I'm not sure where the first one is."
"Sort of following so far," spoke Buford. "But why are you showing that thing to us?"
"I found this journal by chance. It was in a hollowed out tree in the woods. There was a trigger that I stumbled upon that let me find it. The journal has a page missing, and it's hidden in the same spot I found the journal. But the problem is I don't where that is. I was hoping you guys could help."
Isabella grinned. "You came to the right place!"
"Hollowed out tree, huh?" said Phineas thoughtfully. "What'd it look like?"
"Well, the tree seemed to have been constructed out of metal," described Dipper, "and designed to look like a real tree. There was a hatch in the middle that opened, and inside was this rusted old electronic device. Two of the wires were severed, but when I fiddled with the switches a trapdoor opened."
"Were all the wires cut?"
"No. There was still one hooked up."
"Guys, I know what we're going to do today!" declared Phineas.
Mabel clapped her hands. "Yay!"
"What?" asked Dipper eagerly.
"We'll make a device that can locate electronic frequency," he explained. "It'll be more efficient than a metal detector, because it won't pick up small metal objects. It'll lock right on the device we're searching for. It'll probably take a bit of walking, depending on how high we can program the distance."
"Let's go, then," said Isabella.
Phineas looked at Dipper with a smile. "We'll find that page in no time. Let's grab the supplies and get working!"
"It's still wet out there," grumbled Buford, reluctantly getting to his feet.
Dipper felt hope bubbling within his chest as he followed the others out of the cabin. After the days of agonized waiting, maybe it was finally time to find the elusive page.
Then he could finally get to the bottom of this odd mystery.
Perry walked down the dirt road, on route to the inn where Heinz was staying. The sun beat down on him, and for once he wasn't happy about it. Candace woke up in better spirits, and immediately suggested to her parents that they go for a walk.
She seemed to be herself, or at least not totally possessed, so Perry felt it was fine to leave the girl with her parents. Besides, Heinz had contacted him, saying they needed to talk, and Perry wanted to keep his evening free to keep an eye on his oldest kid.
He approached the side of the inn and climbed swiftly up to the window that led to Heinz's bedroom. He hoisted it open and swung into the sparsely decorated space, landing neatly on the carpet. Heinz was seated at the small desk in the corner of the room, and he looked up in surprise.
"Perry the Platypus? What, you can't knock?"
Perry shot him a look.
"I was just asking." Heinz pushed aside a sheaf of papers, which had his scratchy writing across the blue lines. "Okay, have a seat."
Perry went over and hopped onto the edge of the desk, where he settled down. He looked at his nemesis expectantly, wondering why the man needed to speak with him.
"I was up all night, thinking and writing," said Heinz, rubbing at his eyes. "If we want to stop Lavernia, we need to figure out what she wants to achieve and how she plans to do it. Now, keep in mind that all of this is based on her backstory."
'Well, you are the master of motives based off of backstories,' thought Perry in amusement.
"What she wants is pretty obvious. She's been scorned by this town. She was defeated by this town. Even though these aren't the people who plotted to entrap her, they live in the place that has caused her so much grief and anger. She's going to want to destroy her hometown. Myrefall, which over the years has become Gravity Falls."
"I figured as much," chattered Perry.
Heinz correctly interpreted what the platypus' sound meant. "Well, I came up with more than that! Lavernia is only a spirit. She needs a body to use to help her with her plan. Even if we figure out who that is, we need a way to trap Lavernia back into the ground. To do that, we need her spirit out of the person she's using as the host. We need to find the spell that'll send her back to her eternal prison."
The gears started to turn in Perry's brain. He snagged the pen from the desk and a spare piece of paper, starting to write at a quick pace.
'I'll take care of locating the host and finding a way to expel the spirit. Since I'm pretty sure neither of us are witches, you take care of figuring out how we're going to seal Lavernia back into her prison.'
Heinz nodded. "If you say so, Perry the Platypus. But it might help if I have One."
Perry gave him a look that translated to are you kidding me?
"I won't mess up this time, swear!" insisted Heinz.
Perry gave a reluctant nod. He would not need it for what he planned to do, and maybe Heinz could find some use of it to help him with his part of the plan.
"Great! You can just swing by and drop it off sometime today."
Perry tilted his fedora and departed Heinz's room. He would make one more trip to deliver One before settling in Candace's cabin. The girl would probably be back soon and he didn't want to miss a single minute not observing her.
'Alright, Lavernia. If you really are using my kid as your host, you're going to regret it.'
It was late in the afternoon by the time the group of kids traversed through the forest. Phineas held a small, square device in his hands, eyes locked on the screen as he followed the blinking dot on the radar. The antennas attached to the top of the device received the dull signal the old electronic device sent out, directing the kids towards it.
"Here we are!" said Phineas cheerfully after a few minutes. He pointed at the tree directly ahead of them, blending perfectly in with the rest of the forest.
Dipper dashed forwards, hand stretching to fling open the dusty hatch. His heart lifted at the familiar old device inside, the switches in the same place as he had left them at the beginning of the summer. He fiddled with them, and soon the trapdoor opened a few feet away.
"Whoa," breathed Baljeet.
"So this is where you found it," said Mabel with wide eyes. "Cool!"
Ferb approached the trapdoor and peered inside. "This is where you found it?"
Dipper nodded. "Yeah. Maybe there's a false bottom or something."
Ferb felt along the metal bottom, but it was firm and secure. "No, it's not here."
Phineas rubbed his chin thoughtfully, inspecting the disconnected wire on the device. He dug through his shorts pocket and removed a roll of electric tape, leftover from the construction of the device Isabella now hold.
"Let's see," he mused. He carefully reattached the wire, sealing it together with the tape. He flipped the switches, and the trapdoor closed just as a soft rumbling occurred within the tree. Dipper whirled around and stared with wide eyes as the carved out section in the tree started to lower.
"It's a secret elevator shaft!" exclaimed Isabella.
"Nice one, Dinner Bell," praised Buford.
Dipper's eyes lit up when a new elevator shaft descended. He stepped forwards and slowly removed the single piece of paper. In bright red lettering at the top of the page red, Fire Demon! Do not release at ANY cost!
"We found it," he said in awe. "Thank you!"
"No problem," said Phineas. "What's it say?"
Licking his dry lips, Dipper took a breath before reading the page aloud.
"I have seen many dangerous creatures during my stay in Gravity Falls, but perhaps the worst discovery is that of the fire demon. Many people in this town know the tale of Lavernia, but all dismiss it as being nothing more than myth. But following the trends of this town, I investigated this matter. Using an invention of my own design, I managed to track readings of spiritual energy coming from deep below-whether she resides far below us in the dirt or the Underworld itself, I do not know.
"But the energy was so strong it destroyed my device. The readings I managed to analyze were nothing I'd ever seen before. As there are gnomes and unicorns, there are also demons. As this demon was created in our world, it also resides in our world. I fear what she is capable of, and I dare not use the spell I previously discovered to summon her.
"Under no circumstances should anyone free Lavernia. I should destroy the summoning spell, but my devotion to my research prevents me from doing so. I shall keep this secret safe, and pray that Lavernia never be released. The amount of magic and spiritual energy released may not be something Gravity Falls can withstand, never mind Lavernia herself.
"Should this dark day arrive, I have found the spell used by the original witches to trap her. It has taken much investigating, but after a breakthrough I managed to locate it."
When Dipper paused, Buford demanded, "Well, what is it?"
"I don't want to say it out loud yet," muttered Dipper, taking out Three and carefully inserting the page. "It goes on to say some more stuff, like how it takes extreme magic to entrap demons."
"So that earthquake," said Isabella nervously. "That was actually a demon being released?"
"Seems like it," said Dipper grimly. "Whoever released this demon is probably the person who has One."
"Could it be Gideon?" suggested Phineas.
"No. Mabel and I found him a couple of days ago. Something happened to him. He was blank and unresponsive, but still alive. It was really weird."
"It was like he got the life sucked out of him," chimed in Mabel.
Dipper's eyes widened. "Maybe that's it! Maybe Lavernia found a host, and is using him or her to regain enough power to accomplish her plan, whatever that is."
Phineas frowned. "So we have to find Lavernia's host?"
"I guess so," muttered Dipper. "If we don't, we're forced to wait for Lavernia to act."
"Demon hunting it is," quipped Buford.
Baljeet's shoulders slumped. "This is not the vacation I signed up for."
Night descended, and Perry laid at the end of Candace's bed, pretending to sleep. It was almost one in the morning when the girl stirred, slowly sitting up and getting out of bed. Perry cracked an eye open slightly and his heart froze. Candace's dark blue eyes shone a vicious red, and there was a dark smile on her pale face.
Perry stayed still, listening to Candace's footsteps as she walked across the cabin and went outside. He waited a beat before getting up and creeping outside. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dark and when they did he could see the girl moving swiftly and quickly towards the forest.
'That's not a speed a human can travel,' he thought grimly.
He slipped on his fedora and activated his propellers. He flew high into the sky and followed after the girl. She moved briskly through the forest before stopping abruptly. Perry quickly landed a few feet away and hid behind a tree.
There was a goat grazing in a clearing. Candace was eyeing it, and when Perry blinked the teen was across the clearing, looming over the animal. His beak dropped open when her hand passed right through the goat. The animal immediately crumpled to the ground, stiff and unmoving. Candace arched her back, a contented smile on her lips.
"That's what I'm talking about."
Perry's paws bit into the bark, a dark scowl crossing his features. The voice that left Candace's lips did not belong to the girl. It was raspy and low, with a threatening undertone. There was no doubt about it. Candace was Lavernia's unwilling host.
"Well, well, well, look what we have here."
Perry snapped out of his thoughts and looked behind him in surprise. There stood Candace-or in this moment, Lavernia-a sly smile on her lips.
"I thought there was something mysterious about you," purred Lavernia. "You're more intelligent than you let on, aren't you?"
Perry chattered sharply. "Leave her alone."
Lavernia did not understand the chatter, but she did understand the fierce protectiveness that shone in the platypus' eyes. "You want me to let go of your little owner, don't you? I'm afraid that's not possible. I'm going to be borrowing her…shall we say indefinitely?"
Before Perry could react Lavernia loomed above him with a sneer. "I spared you out of gratitude for this adolescent's cooperation. But since you seem to be more meddlesome than I expected, your life force will make a great addition to my building power."
Her hand shot out-and froze inches away from the platypus' chest.
Perry did not leave Lavernia's gaze. Her posture was suddenly tense, her mouth in a hard line. He could see her confusion at her inability to move, and for a brief moment the red orbs flashed to a familiar blue.
Lavernia wrenched away with a snarl. "Whatever," she hissed. "There are plenty of life forces in this place. There's a little blonde girl who caused Candace some ire a while ago. Maybe I'll pay her a visit. Consider yourself spared-for now."
She was off in an instant, speeding across the forest. Perry watched her go, a long breath leaving him.
Lavernia's control over Candace was almost complete. He could see that. But he also found a fatal flaw in Lavernia's plan.
As stubborn and angry as Candace was, it did not overpower her loyalty and love for her friends and family. He had seen Candace's fleeting moment of control over Lavernia. No matter who was using her as a puppet, she would not attack her beloved pet.
'Hang in there, Candace. I've got a plan. I promise I'll save you.'