Rescue Mission

Chapter 1: Summons Unforseen

Chapter Summary:

It begins.

It was a mostly quiet morning in the Pines household. The click-clack of knitting needles marked the slow construction of a pair of small red mittens, their rhythm occasionally broken by a page of a book turning, or a demon unwrapping a hard candy. Somewhere out the window, a creature that might be charitably called a sheep floated past, untethered by trivial physical forces.

An ordinary day, for a given value of “ordinary”.

Which, of course, was probably why it was interrupted as so many mornings were, with the frantic tug of a summons.

This wasn't an unusual event. Dipper saw summons large and small nearly daily as of late. His reputation had only grown since the Transcendence first hooked him up to Bill's legacy (which he was not actually following, thank you very much, even if there were smaller parts to it he couldn't avoid), and Dipper had answered the increase in requests by figuring out as quickly as possible how to start ignoring them.

The tug came again, a little more urgent this time.

Dipper groaned and half-rolled off the air above the couch, gliding along the floor like an air hockey puck left idle. The summons lacked the strength of a proper blood sacrifice or even a well-drawn circle, but it carried the air of desperation common to most summons actually worth answering, and he didn't like to leave that kind hanging, even if it had fifty-fifty odds of ruining the rest of his morning. What if it was an orphan? A cult runaway? A cult runaway orphan? It wasn't even hypothetical, really! He'd dealt with all three.

“I've got a summons. Be right back,” he told Mabel and Henry, who both acknowledged him in their own ways without looking up -- Mabel with a nod, and Henry with a hum and another turn of the page.

He let go, and let the draw of whatever sketchy circle and mediocre offering called him onwards do its work.


Dipper materialized into dark room -- someone's basement, he guessed -- mostly undecorated, full of storage boxes and gardening tools and whatever else the owner had never gotten around to cleaning out. The circle under his feet was drawn in sidewalk chalk on the bare floorboards, surrounded by half a dozen mismatched tea candles. The mingling floral scents from two on the left side stank vaguely like cheap perfume, but he held back from rejecting any deals out of pure spite just yet.

A small bag of caramel hard candies lay at the center in offering.

No occult (or just plain cult) paraphernalia, nor any creepy writing on the walls -- that was a good sign, probably. In absence of other obvious red flags, Dipper started the usual dramatic entrance speech routine, as always -- he rose up toward the ceiling, the billowing black smoke beneath him rolling out over the floorboards as he summoned gold-and-blue sparks between a snap of his fingers, and boomed out, “W̷̯͆͐̒̚ͅH̸̹̻̜͠O̷͈̾ ̵̛̐͆̈́Ḍ̴̨̺͉̩͗́̈́͠A̴̛̫̩̓̈́̎R̴̹̈́͠E̷̎̀̋̒̂̇S̸̮̎̎̇͊̀̕ Ṡ̴̛̛̏U̴̧͈̤̓͑̍M̵̨͇̞͂M̶͚̏O̶͉͂̀N̴͋͆͠ A̴͗͛̉̉̓̐L̶Č̵̦̫̺Ọ̵͙̤̲̳̥͊̚͘͜R̴̓͘ T̴͗̔H̶̦̑͛͠E̶ Ḑ̸̡̧̡͕͂R̶̟̾E̴͈͊͝A̴̝͈̳͛͑͊M̸͗̄͘BĔ̶͕͉̣̑̄͛̋̈́̕N̵͚̮̳̎͗̒D̷̗͙̈́̏̉̉̾̄E̸̕ͅR̵͋͂!?

A second passed without answer. And then: “Uhhhh, I d-do?”

Dipper looked down past the smoke to see a graying man in his sixties with a familiar croaking voice, sheltered halfway behind a box of Christmas ornaments, and he blinked, briefly speechless. Before him stood one of the last people he had ever expected a summons from.

J̷͜aso̵̊ͣn Fu̶̖ndͩerbeͤ͞rke̬̜̓͠r,” Dipper said, a little off-balance now. “W̵h̵y̷,̸ e̸x̨͔͇̔͘a̜̹c̷t̴l̷y̴, h̷a̶v̶e y̴̶̥͆o̶u̵ ̵s̵um̴m̹̝̑o̵n̴e̷d m͔̤̫̉̒e̵?̴

“It's-- it's about Wirt,” Jason told him, now pulling together the courage to look up at him. “He's in trouble.”

Dipper frowned. “Okay, n̡̂͆͜͠o̷̶͡rmḁ̸̓l̶͝ly I would totally be giving you the riot act right now about what an o̴b̶je̸c̸t̶iv̶el̵y̸ t̴̘͙͑͘ͅe̴͜͝r̷̈́ri̶bl̷̩̏̽̐̕e̶ i̵̓d̷̒eä̸ demon summoning is, but-- ̷in t̶ro̸ub̸le ȟ̶ͪŏ̴̺͞w?

He tried to feel around for an answer -- there were limits to what he could sense without really working for it, but there was a gist of the situation there already. Slayers that had come into town, a plan gone horribly right. The Unknown's Keeper, missing. Some kind of fight. The slayers had taken up on the borders of the woods. Wirt was still missing.


Dipper shook his head, subtly trying to clear it. He was going to need the explanation after all, it seemed. This situation had way too much to unpack in just a few seconds of psychic research.

“It's a little long, b-but I'll explain,” said Jason. “It all started a few days ago...”


“... so, to recap: The Keeper is outside of the Unknown, there are demon-slayers trying to exorcise him, and you want me to help fix that.”

Jason nodded, a little less twitchy now that he'd had the chance to say his piece. Dipper ran through the facts as effectively as he could in his head, trying to work out the simplest solution.

In explaining, Jason had told him what he knew (which was fairly limited, but gave a good summary, if nothing else), and Dipper had let his powers fill in the gaps. Between the two of them, he had a pretty good sense of what had happened.

A company of up-and-coming demon-slayers looking to make a name for themselves had come into town earlier in the week, asking around about the woods. Interviewing the townsfolk and pulling up old missing child cases and hiker's horror stories, they'd generally tried to frame themselves as some kind of saviors, showing up to relieve the region of the terrible demon of the woods. From Jason's telling, they'd had mixed reactions on that from the actual townsfolk, but they'd chosen their narrative and they were sticking to it.

The company, The Blades Of Consechra, weren't exactly malicious. Dipper had heard the name once or twice before, in the budding demon-hunting circles that popped up post-Transcendence, and while they weren't the best, they'd been clearly working on building themselves a reputation -- if anything, the thirst for fame seemed to be their greatest flaw. So far, their crusade against the Beast of the Unknown just sounded like their latest attempt to put themselves on the map.

They had probably chosen the wrong demon for that.

Dipper had never actually put much consideration into the idea that Wirt could, in theory, leave the Unknown. Apparently Wirt hadn't considered it much either, once he'd ended up as its Keeper. The Blades had, though, and they'd hatched a plan from it.

There weren't many records suggesting how the Beast might be summoned, but that hadn't stopped them from trying. Somehow, through trial and error and no small amount of research, they'd figured it out, and worse yet, they'd gone through with it. Whatever plan the Blades worked out had also involved setting up a chain of wards around the Unknown to keep the Keeper out, much to the dismay of local forest rangers and town and park services. Nobody had gotten around to taking them down, though, and the Blades weren't making it easy.

There was still one bright spot amid all the mess, though: whatever they did, it hadn't worked well. The slayers had been insisting that today would be the day they vanquished the Beast once and for all, but it was past noon, and they had so far failed to deliver. Something about them seemed tense and off, and Dipper, reading between the lines and into the margins well beyond where the average mortal could follow, had gleaned that something had gone unexpectedly wrong during the binding part of the summoning (what a surprise, he thought dryly), and Wirt had bolted off into the night.

(Judging by the number of slayers out and about less-than-subtly searching around the woods, they'd lost track of the Dark Lantern as well. Jason didn't know that part, though, and Dipper decided he probably didn't need to.)

The harder part wouldn't be finding him, Dipper surmised. Wirt didn't have much power outside the Unknown, that much was clear, and Dipper's abilities made a simple search-and-rescue mission downright trivial.

No, the harder part would be getting him back in. Still not too much trouble, if it all went well, but they'd had to get past a company of demon slayers dead set on putting on a show -- a show where they won. Well-intentioned mortals made everything hairier, though Dipper was beginning to have doubts as to how well-intentioned these particular mortals actually were.

Dipper couldn't say if the wards the Blades set up around the woods would actually work against the Keeper, but if he was really so weak outside the Unknown, they might. And if he had to get past all those slayers, first, well. He might have had a human side to help him, but Dipper wasn't sure he liked those chances. It didn't matter much whether the wards could keep him out, if they slowed him down and left him a sitting duck in the middle of a holy water-fight.

Dipper fidgeted. The bag of candy wouldn't anchor him for much longer -- he'd been charitable as it was, with the fifteen minutes or so it had taken to get the necessary information out on the table, but he had declined to mention that so far. The man was trying; Dipper couldn't exactly fault him for that, but he couldn't stay here on a single bag of Warther's forever.

“Okay, so. I guess the real question is, what are you willing to offer me for helping you? Not that this isn't something I care about, but I don't just do deals for free. A bag of candy's only going to buy you so much time, and a demon's gotta ë̷ͤ͜a̶̸͡t, you know?”

Jason shivered. Okay, so maybe he didn't need to scare to the man quite that much, even if it was a little fun.

“No, really, what can you offer me?” Dipper asked again, dropping the eldritch echoes this time. “I can try to give you an aligned-with-my-interests discount, but I definitely still need a price. Unless you want me to make the starting offer?”

As if startled back into motion, Jason sat a little straighter. “I h-have ideas, b-but I'm-- I can listen to the s-starting offer, first.”

Dipper sat back, reclining in midair. “All right then. Uh, let's see. The house? Probably too much, honestly, I mean, childhood home and all. It's not like this whole request is that spectacular-- maybe something smaller. No, definitely something smaller. Sentimental. A trinket...” He surveyed the piles of junk surrounding them both, and found himself honing in on a particular box. “Hey, what's this?”

The box in question had the weight of decades on it, dusty and faded, with an illegible label Dipper didn't need to read to guess at. There was something with emotional weight in there -- whether it was Jason's, or someone else's, he couldn't tell yet, but it would be potent, definitely.

“Th-that's actually what I was thinking of,” Jason told him, looking a little surprised. He made a move towards the box, but Dipper opened it first, flipping through the contents for the source of the sentiment. “W-wait, you don't have to--” The first few layers were just books, mostly unimportant, but there was an envelope of letters shoved down the side, bent under several more packages and a bundle of dried-out flowers.

Dipper pulled out the envelope to examine it. The paper and contents dated back years, and carried the energy of teenage crushes and heartache so potent he could taste it. He flicked the envelope open and pulled out the first piece of paper of several inside. The folded outside of the page read, “For Sara.”

He raised an eyebrow at Jason. “Highschool crush?”

“Uh, y-yeah,” Jason admitted, a little sheepish. “I never worked up the nerve, to send th-those letters, but I used to wish I had.” He laughed, weakly. “You know, Wirt had a crush on her, too. He recorded a cassette tape for her as a gift, a-actually. I don't have it, though. I think Sara took it with her when she moved.”

“Do you know what was on the tape?” asked Dipper. He could include a little gossip as part of payment, if it was good enough.

“He sounded really e-embarassed about it, I remember. Something about poems he wrote for her? And clarinet. He used to play clarinet in the high school band.” Jason looked thoughtful. “It was kind of sweet. We were young back then, you know?”

“That is sweet,” said Dipper, already picturing a young and branchler-less Wirt playing clarinet in front of a tape recorder in all his awkward glory, “and I'm definitely going to let Mabel tease him about it once this is over. Do you think you could get me a copy?”

“I could ask Sara if she still h-has it. She might.” Jason tilted his hands a partial shrug.

“Good enough.” Dipper grinned, and offered a handshake of blue fire. “You've got a deal.”

“Definitely j-just for the letters and the tape? Not, um, the house or my soul or anything, r-right?”

Dipper laughed. “God, no. I don't know what I'd do with an entire second house.” After a few seconds, he added, more seriously, “Also Wirt would probably be annoyed if I ate your soul, so that would be bad.”

That seemed enough for Jason. “... O-okay, then.”

He took a deep breath, nodded, and took Dipper's hand.



Henry did not jump out of his seat when Dipper poofed into existence over the side table with a gleam of urgency in his eye. Far weirder and more unexpected things happened around the shack every week. What was more surprising, though, was that instead of flopping down on the couch in air-puck mode again, Dipper dropped to stand on the table like a general ready to marshal his troops and said, “Hey, guys, we've got a situation.”

“What kind of situation?” asked Mabel, with an edge Henry could only describe as eager. “Is it another cult?”

Dipper winced. “Uh, no, not exactly. It's the Keeper.”

“The who?”

Mabel's mouth made a little 'o'. “Did something happen with him?” She wrinkled her nose. “Wait, did someone in the Unknown summon you? Is that even possible?”

“Yes and no.” Dipper glanced around, and pulled down the window blinds. Henry wasn't actually sure if it was for any practical reason, or just dramatic effect. It could still be serious either way. “I just made a deal with one Jason Frog-dude, and now, I have a rescue mission to do. Do either of you plan on coming? Since I can't exactly be in two places at once.” He paused a moment. “Well, not consistently, anyway.”

“Okay, slow down, both of you. Who are we rescuing?” Henry asked, a little wary.

Dipper smiled far too wide. “A̶̚ d̸̤e̺̒́m̲ͫ͝o̳ͦ͠n!

Ah. And there it was.

One of the consequences of having a demon for a brother-in-law: you will never have a peaceful, quiet weekend, ever again.

(For all that Henry preferred his peace and quiet, though, he wouldn't have it any other way.)


It took nearly thirty minutes to assemble a proper plan -- another thirty minutes they couldn't really afford, in Dipper's eyes.

Wirt was in trouble, and the clock had been ticking for hours. The Unknown would defend itself to some extent, he was sure, like a loyal dog guarding the house from burglars, but it was an indiscriminate thing, and all the more fallible without a Keeper. In the meantime, he still didn't know where the lantern was, or how soon the Blades would find it.

The plan answered the Blades' actions as simply and effectively as they could on short notice. Henry, with Jason as a guide, would take some of the safer unholy artifacts Dipper still had on hand and nullify the wards around the forest. Meanwhile, he and Mabel would go find Wirt, and with any luck, his lantern. Once the Keeper and Dark Lantern were reunited, it would just be a matter of escorting him back to the woods without anyone getting waylaid or exorcised.

For the trip, Henry took a hatchet, and a flare gun to send a distress signal in case a summoning wasn't possible. It was an emergency flare, the type carried by campers and hikers, and hopefully it wouldn't raise the slayers' suspicions if they got caught. Not much use from inside the Unknown proper, but worth having on hand (and while the forest rarely saw actual hikers, the cover story was still something.)

Mabel had already collected a steel crowbar painted high-visibility banana yellow and packed her mask, the latter recently re-bedazzled with lime green and fuchsia rhinestones. Cult-bashing gear, really, but it wouldn't hurt to be prepared. She'd wanted to bring the nail-studded bat, but they agreed it wasn't worth getting stopped on the streets over such an obvious weapon. The same argument was made about the van, for that matter: too big, too obvious, and not useful enough to be worthwhile, so far.

Dipper, for his part, tightened up his human appearance a bit, retracting his claws and fangs into something duller and rounder, and tucking his wings under his shirt. It took a little concentration to maintain, in the back of his mind, like wearing pants that didn't quite stay up on their own, but he wouldn't have to hold it forever.

Jason clearly didn't know what he was doing, but had insisted on helping however he could. On Dipper advice, he agreed he'd bring a hockey stick and helmet, which was a start, but more importantly, he'd try to stay out of harm's way. Dipper didn't relish trying to deal with the consequences if he didn't.

He wasn't sure how he felt about bringing him along, honestly. It was useful, though, to have someone familiar with the area, and an extra pair of hands on short notice. If it came down to it, Dipper supposed he could poof him away to safety, or whichever group had him could drop him off somewhere before things got ugly. But older humans were so uncomfortably squishy...

His thoughts briefly turned to the Grunkles, and he had to cut himself off before they went anywhere unwanted. No point thinking about stuff like that right now. He wrote up a note to leave on the shop counter for when they got back from their fishing trip that afternoon: not asking for help, yet, but to let them know, in case things went south and they needed backup.

Once the trio had suited up and gathered their gear, it was time to go.

“How much do you think you need to get us across the country?” Mabel asked. She eyed the refrigerator speculatively.

Dipper shrugged. “I'd say a gallon of rocky road would be nice, but I've actually got a deal running right now, so I don't really need it?” (The Pines household always kept enough ice cream and candy stocked in bulk for minor deals, these days. Alcor could offer one hell of a family discount, but a deal was a deal, and that meant prices to be paid, no matter who shook his hand.) “But if you want to give me free ice cream, I'm totally up for that. It is delicious.”

Mabel snorted and held out her hand. “Save it for later, you greedy goof! C'mon, let's just go!”

“Fine, fine.” Mabel grabbed his left hand, and Henry his right. Dipper shut his eyes for a moment, picturing the town he'd seen once or twice before, and in a twister of space and sparks, they were gone.