Cipher-v-Cypher

"W-who are you?!" Dipper stammered, looking up into the teenager's golden eyes.
Those eyes softened, becoming less cold and hard. "I am called many things, really. Mother Earth, Mother Moon, Yin.... But you may call me Cypher......"

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2. Paintball Wars and Silver Trees

"It doesn't make sense!" Dipper exclaimed, pacing back-and-forth across the basement floor. His Gruncle Ford was sitting at his work-desk, following the boys' motions with his eyes, a look of concern spread across his features.

"Will you just calm down for a moment, Dipper?" he asked. "You'll work yourself up, and then nothing will be able to be thought through."
Dipper stopped his pacing, looking over at his aged relative. He sighed. "You're right...but what is there to discuss? It's all too connected to be a coincidence, but the journal can't possibly be connected with my mind...right?" he asked, glancing warily at the journal that Stanford had let him keep.

"I'm not going to rule it out, but it is highly improbable. Let's just look at the facts here, alright?" Stanford said, patting a stack of papers that stood next to him. 

Dipper walked over to the stack, and sat down, propping his elbows on his knees. "Alright...."

"Alright then, let's start from the beginning," Stanford said, opening the journal to the page that contained the information on Bill Cipher. "Alright, you said that your dream started with nothing, correct?"

"Right. There was nothing but the void around me," Dipper replied, nodding.

"And after walking for a while, you came across a door?"

"Yeah...."

"Was there anything special about the door? Any unusual symbols or textures? Any giveaway markings?" Stanford asked, flipping through the journal.

"Not that I'm aware of. I mean, the door looked and felt like metal, but turned out to be wood," Dipper said, scratching his neck awkwardly. 

Stanford nodded slightly, still flipping through the journal. He stopped on a page that listed information about several rare trees.

"Steel-wood," he said. "According to my notes, steel-wood was a tree native only to Oregon. It would not grow in any other state, due to the unique qualities of the soil here. Thirty years ago, when I documented this, there were only a couple dozen left, all of which were kept around Circle Park," Stanford said. "Many people believe that they are just normal, endangered plants," he continued, giving a glance in Dipper's direction, "...but that's not true. These trees--and I have experienced this first hand--have the power to store the past within their wood. Now, many people call tell you that every tree does this, that the pattern of their rings can tell you what happened in it's lifetime. While this is true, the steel-wood does it...differently. Each ring contains hundreds of memories-- environmental, human, animal, you name it. Anything that touches these trees can have their memories stored within the wood of them, and they will stay there until the end of time."

"Sounds a bit far-fetched," Dipper said, narrowing his eyes skeptically. "How would one prove that these trees could do that?"

"I'm getting there," Stanford stated. "There is a way to extract and see the memories trapped within the tree. First one would have to find a Meliae--an ash tree Nymph. Once found, you would have to make an offering of milk and honey. Only then would she be willing to help you, as you have proven to know proper forest Nymph customs," he continued, flipping the page. "At this point, take the Nymph to the steel-wood tree, and politely ask to extract whichever memories you wish to see." He closed the book. "And there you have it."

Dipper still looked slightly skeptical. "But what does that have to do with my dream? It still doesn't add up," he said.

"No, but it does give us somewhere to start. We know the steel-wood is basically a memory storage unit. We know that your mysterious door was made of steel-wood. And we also know that things in Gravity Falls are not coincidences."

Dipper nodded slightly. "True...."

Stanford gave a small sigh. "The only problem will be trying to connect the pieces. As you may already know, finding all the pieces to the puzzle in this town is always a challenge."

"Well...we could always start with trying to find a...what was it called...? A Meliae?" Dipper questioned.

"That might work, though it would be difficult. You don't know what time period your dream occurred in, nor do you know if the tree that would have contained that memory still stands," Stanford countered, though he seemed to agree with the plan. "It would be worth a shot, however...if it doesn't work out, then we'll try something else."

Dipper thought about this for a moment, then nodded. "Alright...I'll see if I can't go later this evening," he said, sliding off the paper stack and grabbing the journal off of Stanford's work desk. "Thanks, Uncle Ford," he said, running up the stairs to exit the basement.

"No problem, kiddo," Stanford said, though his nephew was long gone. He turned his dark brown gaze to the journal marked '1'. Opening to the first page, he stared for a long moment at the page. It was one of the oldest pages within all the journals, and was generally messier than most. Creature name had been crossed out furiously with red ink, as had most of the notes--not by Stanford's doing, but by someone else.... On top of that, the page was torn slightly at the bottom corner, where half of a note was left.

-- hzev fh ...

"No problem....."

~~~

Dipper walked outside the shack, already devising a plan on how he would find a Meliae later that evening, when something bright and pink whizzed past his head, hitting and splattering against the tree right behind him. Dipper jumped in surprise, and looked behind him at the tree, which now had a portion of it's bark stained pink.

"Hey Dipper!" Mabel's voice called from in front of the brunette preteen. Dipper turned his head back to the front, and saw his twin sister, Mabel, pointing her Nyarf-brand paintball gun at him, a wide smile adorning her features.

Dipper slowly put his hands up, showing he meant no harm. "O-ho-kay Mabel, put the gun down. I'm just passing through," he stated, smiling lightly.

"Oh-ho no, Dip-Dunk. You promised to play Paintball with Soos, Wendy and me," Mabel replied, her smile growing wider. 

Dipper laughed nervously. "I...heh...I did?" he asked, rubbing his neck awkwardly. 

"Yeeesss," Mabel said, drawing out the word, "...you did."

"I don't remember," Dipper said.

"Dude, you were like half-asleep when we asked," Soos said, struggling to fasten the strap on his paintball vest. 

"But you did promise nevertheless," Wendy said, loading her Nyarf gun.

"Oh...," Dipper said, averting his gaze. "Well...I kind of had something to--"

"Not getting out of it!" Mabel exclaimed, grabbing her brother's arm and dragging him over the fallen log, where paintball equipment was scattered everywhere. 

"But I have--"

"Oh come on Dipper! Just one game?" Mabel asked, giving Dipper puppy eyes.

Dipper tried to hold her gaze, but failed within the first fifteen seconds. He sighed. "Alright...one game."

"Yes!" Mabel exclaimed, throwing a black paintball vest at him. "Hurry and get ready then!"

Dipper rolled his eyes slightly, slipping on the vest and fastening it. He grabbed one of the protective helmets from the log, and removed his hat before slipping the helmet on, strapping it to fit his head size. He picked up the knee and elbow pads left for him and slipped those on as well. He picked up one of the CO2   tanks, but didn't know what to do with it, so he took a sneaky glance around at everyone else's guns, and saw that it was attached to a tube under the main body piece. He attached the tank, and grabbed his final piece, the bulk-feeder, and attached it to the top of his body piece. 

"Alright," he said. "I'm ready."

"Yes!" Mabel exclaimed, flipping down the plastic screen of her helmet. "Girls versus boys!"

Soos fist-pumped the air. "Aw yes! Dipper, we can totally kick some girl butt," he stated, holding up his gun. 

Dipper nodded, looking over at Wendy, who was adjusting her helmet. Dipper...you're over her. It's just a paintball game.... he thought to himself, walking towards Soos.

Mabel jumped up and down several times, before announcing. "Alright! One team goes west, the other goes east! After ten minutes, we'll start our hunt!" She smiled. "GO!"

Soos and Dipper took off towards the east, while Mabel and Wendy ran to the west. 

It was a good five minutes before Soos and Dipper finally stopped, panting and sweating. Soos collapsed onto the ground, his chest heaving.

"Du...dude! Man do...down," he said, flipping onto his back.

"Come on, man," Dipper huffed out, leaning against a tree for support. "We need to think of a strategy."

Soos let out a groan of protest, before sitting up and walking over to the preteen. "Okay dude...what...what's the plan?"

"Well for starters, the girls are good at hidden combat," Dipper said, setting his weapon down. "Which means they'll most likely stay in the bushes or in the trees."

"And if they don't?" Soos asked.

"If they don't, then we'll have to advance and pray for the best," Dipper said, flipping up his helmet screen to breathe fresh, woodsy air.

"Sounds like a plan," Soos said, removing his helmet entirely.

"Alright. Now we've only got about a minute before we have to start, so...let's do this."

Dipper flipped down his screen, and Soos replaced his helmet, and they both set back towards the west, keeping their senses on high alert.

Five minutes passed, and all was quiet...too quiet.

Dipper held his hand up, signaling Soos to stop moving, and he crouched, listening for any slight movements.

When he heard nothing after a moment, he stood up. "Nothing," he murmured, glancing over at Soos, who gripped his gun tighter. 

The duo walked a little further, keeping an eye out for any signs of Mabel and Wendy. 

The sound of a twig snapping sent the boys into a panic, and they shot repeatedly in the direction of the sound. They ceased fire after a few seconds, and waited....

A moment passed before a doe came out of the brush, her fur slightly ruffled in some places and multiple colors staining the soft brown color.

Soos laughed. "Aw dude, haha, we colored the deer!"

Dipper couldn't help but laugh along beside Soos, but it was short-lived, as a red paintball whizzed past the two, hitting the tree beside the doe, causing it the run off. 

Dipper and Soos snapped their gazes to the girls behind them, readying their weapons.

"Hi boys~" Mabel sang, her gun hoisted on her shoulder, a hand on her hip.

Wendy was leaning against the tree, her gun beside her on the ground. As Soos went to aim, she quickly picked it up aiming it with one hand at Soos's chestplate. 

"Quite a predicament we've found ourselves in, huh?" Mabel asked, still smiling. It was starting to get a little creepy. "What do you think, Wendy? Should we take them out? Or just one for now?"

"I think one would do good for now. It'll be fun trying to hunt the other one down."

Dipper gulped. They're talking like they actually mean to kill us... he thought, gripping his gun, keeping his aim steady.

Mabel nodded, a thoughtful expression crossing her features. "Yes...but which one?"

"I say we make Soos run," Wendy said, shifting her aim to Dipper, who took a step back, lowering his gun slightly.

"Good call," Mabel said, lifting her gun to aim at her twin.

"Run, little dude!" Soos exclaimed, firing at the two girls, making them lose their concentration.

Dipper, ignoring Soos, fired at the two as well. 

Mabel and Wendy ducked for cover, hiding behind some trees, returning fire when they could. Neither had been hit, but the attack had thrown them off slightly. 

Mabel peeked from behind the tree, narrowly dodging a green paintball, took aim, and fired.

The paintball flew, the sunlight making it's bright orange color look like flames. The ball hit it's mark exploding into a burst of color.

"I'm hit!" Soos exclaimed, taking a knee. He kept firing, though couldn't dodge the paintballs that pelted his chubby body. 

"Soos!" Dipper exclaimed, dodging paintballs as he glanced over at his friend. 

"Dude, run!" Soos shouted, belly-flopping in front of Dipper to take a blue paintball in the shoulder.
Dipper hesitated a second, but when he saw Wendy peek from behind her tree and aim her gun at him, he ran.

He could hear Mabel's and Wendy's footsteps thundering behind him, which only drove Dipper to run faster. He ran until his lungs ached for regular breathing, until his legs strained for relaxation. He glanced back to see if he could spot either Wendy or Mabel behind, but in doing so, he tripped, tumbling to the side and off a ledge.

It wasn't a terribly steep ledge, and was only six feet from the ground, but the impact was enough to knock whatever breath out of Dipper nonetheless.

Dipper lay there on the ground, trying to regulate his breathing. It took a few moments, but eventually he began to breathe normally. Dipper sat up, looking around.

There were a number of pine trees here, as well as a few woodland creatures. A rabbit hopped cautiously from behind a bush, its nose twitching slightly. A pair of squirrels played tag among the boughs of the trees. The tip-tapping of a woodpecker sounded nearby, and a raven pecked at the ground.

Dipper couldn't help but feel uneasy. He stood up slowly, picking up his paintball gun. He held it close, and began to walk away.

The wind began to pick up, and swirled around the preteen. Dipper stopped, looking up at the sky; dark clouds began to sweep across the sky, blocking out the sunlight, and the temperature dropped a significant amount. Dipper shuddered, clutching his gun closer.

Dipper.....

"W-who's there?!" Dipper exclaimed, his voice cracking. He frantically looked around, looking for the source of the whispery voice.

There was no answer, but the wind seemed to pick up. It forcefully blew against Dipper's back, making him stumble forward.

Dipper tried to walk away, to get under cover from the wind, but the force kept pushing him forward. Dipper finally decided not to fight it, and went whichever direction the wind led him.

He walked, guided by the wind, for what seemed like forever, until at last everything seemed to calm, though the storm clouds overhead remained. 

Dipper looked around; he was in a small clearing, surrounded by pine and oak trees. There was a rocky cliff-face on one side, blocking escape in that direction. There was an opening in the cliff-face, surrounded by overgrown weeds and shrubs and moss. Dipper stared at the opening, stared into the black depths, stared into the nothingness it provided. 

Come inside.....

Dipper stepped back; it was that voice again. "Who are you?" he questioned, forcefully keeping his voice from cracking again.

The wind picked up once again, swirling around the boy. 

Come inside..... the voice beckoned again.

Dipper involuntarily stepped forward, and the wind urged him on. He finally just walked his own way to the mouth of the cave, and peered inside, seeing nothing. 

"Hello?" he called.

No answer.

"Hello?!" he called again.

The wind subsided, and Dipper stepped inside the cave. He kept his gun close, and glanced warily around him, watching every shadow.

Before long, he came to a small area in the cave that was illuminated by electric-blue crystals that were scattered everywhere.

"H-hello?" Dipper questioned, his voice quivering slightly.

A movement in the corner of his eye made Dipper jump, and he aimed his weapon at the shadows. 

The figure slowly moved from its corner to a spot of light cast by one of the glowing crystals. Dipper nearly dropped his gun in surprise.

It was a wolf, almost as tall as his Grunkle Stan. It's fur was a deep ebony black, given a slight blue hue from the crystal's glow; the wolf was of lean build, and had a slight muscle build, indicating that the creature was quick on it's feet, and powerful with its attacks.

Dipper stepped back, but a gust of wind from the outside pushed him forward again. He stepped closer to the wolf, and it made no move to attack him. A slight tingling sensation from his forehead made Dipper put a hand to his birthmark. He took a glance in a crystal, lifting his bangs slightly, seeing that his mark was glowing blue again.

He whipped his gaze back to the wolf, and found himself staring into hypnotic, golden eyes.

Dipper....

The wolf touched the tip of its nose to Dipper's forehead, and the preteen's world went black.

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