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Deer Ryan – The Novel
Deer Ryan, the Novel
Act 1 – One Tree Hill
How are you doing? It’s been 20 years since I’ve last seen you and you turned into a deer. Are you finding fresh grass to nibble on? Did you find friends? Did you maybe make another deer family?
Thinking of you always,
The ink was faded, yet still perfectly legible on one of the last hundred letters in the world. The scrap of paper blew across the ground, the crudely stamped envelope bearing it stained with dirt, tears.
Blood as well. Nevertheless, the Bean chased it across the ground. Arms outstretched, flailing, grabbing at the bit of paper as the wind blew it over dark grey soil mixed with glass fused into the surface.
The piece of paper was worth the effort. Indeed, the Bean clumsily pumped its—his arms and legs, rather than leave it behind. A letter! The Bean could scarcely believe it.
Only a hundred letters were known to exist, and that someone had actually lost one of the relics was beyond belief. It was more valuable than anything the Bean carried on its body. The hemp-clothing, the grubby skin of the Bean as all typical of its kind.
Indeed, as the wind subsided and the letter fluttered down, the Bean would have snatched it. Yet it had landed on the one thing possibly more valuable than the paper:
Grass. Fresh, green, a splash of color in the grey-and-brown landscape. The Bean halted, aware that suddenly, it had gone too far.
The blasted craters of land, the burnt ground that had turned to glass with the fires of unimaginable heat comprised the Bean’s world. Like the crumbling buildings of concrete, brick, and metal in the distance, fallen monoliths of unimaginable size that all Beans sheltered in, the Bean saw little color in its life.
Oh, it knew other colors. The orange of carrots. Grass, like this. The rare apples, which were paid for in bulk. Yet he himself had never bitten into one, contenting himself with the usual food of most poor Beans: bugs.
Bug mash. Even for a Bean growing his entire life on the stuff, this Bean wanted more. He could almost taste the crunch of a proper apple. Yet now…
The grass stretched up the vast hill. A hill that disturbed the flat landscape, and filled with greenery, unlike the valleys filled with sludge that not even insects, let alone Beans could inhabit.
The letter was on the grass.
“Kek. Kek. Kekw.”
The Bean made a guttural noise in its throat. He glanced around, reached for the letter after a moment. Hesitated.
The grass was not to be trod on. Everyone knew that. This—this was a bad place to be. The Bean had chased after the letter for many miles, and had reached one of the places no one went.
One Tree Hill. It stared up, warily, towards the huge tree.
The last tree in the world. Perhaps the holiest sites of Beans, if they had faith left. Yet they did not worship this place, nor desecrate even a blade of grass.
For the being who lived there was neither god nor devil, if the Beans even remembered such concepts. From below, the Bean espied the single house, sitting at the top of the impossibly high hill.
Sweat rolled down the Bean’s forehead. Yet—the letter! Surely she would not notice if…? Imagine how many apples he could get for the letter! Even if the paper was used, the letter could be written on! Used as the heavenly artifact, toilet paper.
Consequence and greed tore the Bean apart. He raked at his face, heedless of the world around him. He did not bother to read the words, of course.
Yet fortune favored him. The wind shifted. The letter began to blow back his way. The Bean’s eyes went wide. His mouth opened and he threw up his arms, uttering the catechism of joy.
“Popchamp! Pog, pog!”
He grabbed for the letter as it flew his way. At last, the snow-white parchment touched the filthy hands. Cradling it at last, the Bean looked around. He would have to run to trade it to one of the Vendors, if such a one had visited the settlement by One Tree Hill.
It was only then they he noticed the watcher. The Bean froze. Yet, the creature which he saw was no terrible predator from the darkness. It was a being he recognized, albeit never around here.
The Bean blinked. It was indeed a deer. He licked his lips. This—this was clearly beyond pogchamp, if it was possible to be.
Deers meant meat. Paper and meat, and the deer’s hide? He looked around for a rock, or something to attack the deer. He crept forwards. Then—realized something.
The deer was staring at him. The Bean hesitated.
The deer’s face was so much like his. Of course, he knew it was deer. Yet the sight of the humanoid face fused onto the bovine body of the deer, staring with cold eyes at him, was too…contemptuous.
How dare this deer look down on me? I am a Bean!
Thus ran the Bean’s train of thought. Holding the letter tighter, he made a fist. The deer might outweigh him, but it was a four-legged thing, whereas he had hands and feet. Making up his mind, he snatched a bit of glass from the ground. It cracked and turned to a dangerous shard as he expertly struck it against the ground.
He rushed forwards with it in one hand, before the deer had the sense to flee. The dumb deer didn’t even move as the Bean raced forwads to strike. It surely was a foolish deer, to come so close to One Tree Hill and the lair of the Witch! Did they not know that Beans ate deer?
The Human Bean leapt.
He never reached his target. The second deer’s antlers pierced his chest and torso from the side. The Bean just had enough time to scream before he was flung to the ground. Hooves trampled him.
The first deer just watched, his face—that of a Human Bean, but copied and pasted onto the body of a deer—unmoved. Of course, what this wretched ‘Bean’ thought was a deer was wrong. Few had been born before the end, however, and this deer was one of the few who knew the truth.
The Human-Deer slowly cantered about to face his rescuer. Not that he had been in danger to begin with.
The second deer ducked his antlered head, still covered in the Bean’s blood. Deer Ryan stopped the precious piece of paper that had been released by the dead Bean’s hand with one hoof. Brodeer raised his eyebrows.
“That was what he was after? Just when he had it too, he met us. Sadge.”
Deer Ryan agreed somberly. Yet his heart was not in the expression of grief. His head rose, and slowly, he regarded the hill.
One Tree Hill. It had been but a modest sight when last he had seen it, the tree barely reaching twice his height. Now, his antlers would not even come close to the lowest branches.
So close. Yet so far.
A sound interrupted him. Brodeer was cleaning his antlers. The deer was far younger than Deer Ryan. He gestured with his head.
“More Beans will be coming. We should rejoin the army.”
Deer Ryan spoke. Already, he heard the shouts. More Beans had spotted them. Worse, the Beans of the hill, the guardians, were coming. They would have proper weapons. Spears of glass or even tipped with metal. Nevertheless, he and Brodeer stopped a moment.
“So this is One Tree Hill. I thought it would be taller. This is it, isn’t it, General? The hill where the final battle will take place?”
Brodeer tilted his head up, looking determined to be unimpressed. Deer Ryan nodded heavily.
“The hill. The One Tree Hill, yes…it’s changed from what I remember.”
The younger deer, second-in-command of the Great Army, the last army, the force of vengeance, looked quizzically at Deer Ryan. Of course, he was too young to know everything. But he had heard the stories. Brodeer’s nose wrinkled and he put up a hoof in a vain attempt to scratch it.
“Why so glum, General? This is where everything will finally end. I thought you would be happier.”
Deer Ryan sighed. He had no hair; his face melted into the deer body before hair would begin. Yet, even if had his head of hair, not a single strand of grey would have marred it. His deer body was as young as it had been that fateful day. If scarred from battle and grief. His lips moved slowly, belying uncertainty even now.
“I…I fear I am afraid, Brodeer. This is the end. Yet I fear it.”
The younger deer seemed astonished at the admittance. He studied his hooves, the ground, still scarred from the war.
The last war. The end of the world. Or so people said, yet here they were. Human Beans, defending the hill and the treacherous person hiding at the very top, in the castle. Deer—he glanced towards the horizon—massing far in the distance.
“Don’t be, General. This is what we’ve been fighting for. Let’s return to camp.”
At last, Deer Ryan nodded heavily. He turned and lifted his hoof. The letter blew into the air. Both deers ignored the valuable bit of paper. Brodeer had no desire for wealth as Beans counted it.
Deer Ryan? He knew what the letters said, each word and curve of each word. Once, he would have hung onto them. Today—
Yes, today was the day he let them go.
More letters fell out of the open saddlebags he wore. They blew into the air, into the orange-grey skies that never changed, the permanent haze of pollution, torn by armageddon.
The two deer galloped away as the letters fluttered up into the air around One Tree Hill. Like birds. Yet who would remember birds instead of the vast insects with wings now?
Only Deer Ryan. And…the ruler of One Tree Hill. The one the vast army of deer in their hundreds had come to bring to justice.
She sat on the hill, waiting for them to come.
A letter flew past the glass window as the last Human being, if she was still one, sat in her rooms in the castle at the top of One Tree Hill. She delicately touched the electric piano keys. The faded instrument nevertheless played a sound as pure as the first day she had turned it on.
A relic from an older time. She saw the army of deer in the distance, as the Head Bean came to ask her how she wanted to fight this army. It did not surprise her. Two lips curved upwards and as the piano began to play—she began to sing.
I’ve something to tell you:
The world is dyin’
And I am too.”
She closed her eyes. Around the growing hill and the last tree, the broken world stretched around her, everywhere. Grass bloomed in places, yes. But the air was smog. Valleys torn from the world stretched down to the sea. Three moons of shattered land filled the sky, passing along with the faint sun.
Lily the Witch continued, looking to the two distant figures marching back the way they’d come, to the vast herd.
Come take a seat
I’m tired of lyin’
I need to kill you for your meat.
I’m so hungry…hungry!”
Her eyes opened. The Witch licked her lips. Her eyes flashed as she sat up and smiled.
The letter landed on the grass outside the castle. If anyone had paused to read it, or the other letters, they would have recognized the two names. The people who had met after so many years one last time.
How are you doing? It’s been 20 years since I’ve last seen you and you turned into a deer. Are you finding fresh grass to nibble on? Did you find friends? Did you maybe make another deer family?
Thinking of you always,
It’s been nice here. I’ve been gallivanting…the seeds have grown new…trees and grass, and it’s been very nice. I’ve had kids of my own, now.
I call them Ryan Junior and Girl-Ryan Junior. It’s sad, really.
…They were both shot.
I got your letter. I’m really sorry to hear about your kids…
I—actually, I have a confession to make! Um, well, the apocalypse is upon us, there’s no more food…
I…I shot your kids. To eat. Venison. I’m really sorry.
I wish I had another letter to write you, but, you kid’s lives saved mine. And I just want to tell you: thank you.
I understand. It’s tough out there. These are really tough times. They really are.
But don’t forget this: I’ve recruited hundreds of other deers. We are coming for you, Lily. Hundreds, Lily! Our hooves? Our hooves have spikes on them! Never forget.
I don’t give a shit if there are hundreds of deers. I’ll eat all of them eventually,
End of Act 1.
Act 2 – Pedeer, the Travelling Salesdeer
On the barren ground outside of One Tree Hill, Deer clashed with Bean.
“The left flank is folding! Squad, with me! Yolo!”
The deer-sergeant shouted. Blood ran down her horns, into her eyes. Yet the deer did not dare stop to wipe at her bloody face. She lowered her head and charged, burying the sharp tips of her horns into a soft target.
A Bean, face gaping with shock. The deer felt the shock of impact and one of her horns broke loose. Nevertheless, her momentum carried him forwards, running the Bean into ranks of his comrades.
Deers rushed after her, male and female, throwing themselves into the last cavalry charge in the world. Some had attached crude lances of metal or the glass-tipped spears—far cheaper than metal—which they used to impale Beans, letting the weapons tear free.
Yet the charge faltered. The sergeant was used to fighting Beans by now. They’d cut their way across the planet, after all. Thousands of deer had died to end the meat-eating Beans!
However, these beans weren’t like the others, who had defended themselves with crude weapons at best, breaking before the onslaught of organized deer, who fought in ranks with the genius of their General leading them.
These Beans had weapons just as dangerous. Wood, not the easily-snapped salvage. Lines of pikes broke a deer charge, impaling deer on the tips of the deadly weapons. Deer screamed, their Human faces twisted with agony as the Beans surged forwards.
That was the commonality between them, yet both species gave neither the dignity of respect. There was only death.
“They protect the Witch! Squad! With me!”
Under her breath, the deer-sergeant muttered.
The battle was turning south. And this was only the first wave of Beans defending One Tree Hill. The deer tossed her head, looking around.
She bent, biting with her teeth to grab the hoof of a deer soldier who had succumbed to the bloody battle. He was rocking back and forth, forelimbs curled around his face as best he could, muttering.
“Sadge, sadge, sadge…”
“On your hooves, deer! Follow me!”
She urged the deer up and her squad followed her, trying to flank the Beans.
Once again the deer crashed into the ranks of Beans, their antlers piercing the weak flesh. Beans thought they were special for standing on two legs! Yet they did not have the deer’s natural horns or strength!
However, they had lost their lances. And as the sergeant tried to disengage, another wave of Beans came out of the dust and chaos, spears aimed at them.
Deer fell. Grimly, the sergeant set herself, head lowered, waiting for the end. She heard a shout as the Beans rushed forwards. The sergeant’s head rose as the cry of hope split the lines of fighting soldiers.
A vanguard of deer split the Beans in half. Their leader, head lowered, gored two Beans—then a third. He broke the charge, as the sergeant shouted in relief.
“Follow me! We’re pulling back! Sound the fall back!”
One of the other bannerdeer following the second-in-command raised his head. He bellowed, loud enough for both sides to hear.
“Pausechamp! PAUSECHAMP! Fall back!”
Deer went running back, helping wounded members of the army to their hooves. The Beans hesitated, but declined to chase them and be strung out along the ground. The sergeant cast a look back as she followed Brodeer back to safety.
So many dead in the first clash. One Tree Hill is just ahead, yet we gain no ground. Was this a strategic error by Deer Ryan, their general?
Deer Ryan had the same through from his vantage point. Yet—staring down at the approach to One Tree Hill, he couldn’t find a better answer.
The land was broken everywhere of course, but the issue in assaulting the lair of the Witch, Lily, was that One Tree Hill was among the few defensible positions in the world remaining.
On a high incline, the Beans could rain down crude arrows and stones on the deer army, who had no way of easily returning fire.
Deer did not have hands, so fashioning their own bows, let alone siege weapons was beyond them.
Deer Ryan had provoked the Beans to fight in ground they thought they could win in; the ruins of a nearby city. The broken rubble and ruined structures again favored the Beans, but the deer had even less chance elsewhere.
For all that, Brodeer had clearly broken the Bean’s best attempts, daringly charging through their ranks. Even now though, the sight of so much blood and death…Deer Ryan shook his head.
This was not what he wanted. Yet he had waged a war against the Beans, who had been his kind once. For vengeance. For his children. Even going as far as to raise an army of his kind to bring justice to the person he had thought was his great friend.
As so often happened, Ryan felt himself writing a letter to her. However, like so many this one would never be sent. He let it happen, unbidden.
I can never forgive you. You killed all I loved
And now it seems we’re going to war.
…Why did you eat Ryan Junior and Girl-Ryan Junior?
I thought we were friends. That was really messed up.
Now I have to kill you,
Below him, he saw the wounded army of deer, their lines battered and bloodied, yet their Human faces turned up to him, shouting defiance towards the Beans.
Every one of them knew the story of Deer Ryan, first of the deer-people. On his call, they had come, forsaking long lives and relative safety to die here.
No, to bring justice to the Witch. He corrected himself.
“Is there anything to live for? This world is broken. Better to end it like this, doing something. Ending the predation of Beans!”
…He wished he could justify this as a anything other than personal, though. It was true that Lily had begun the act of Beans hunting deer. For nearly a decade Deer Ryan had known only gratitude towards him for saving his life during the end of the world. Transforming him into the half-deer, half-person who could survive.
“Were you just hungry, Lily? But you’re a Witch. It was…pretty messed up what you did.”
Deer Ryan lowered his head. Sadge. His antlers only rose as he heard the voices from below.
The deer were beginning to sing.
Chant, really. Yet their joined voices drifted up to the jeering Beans on One Tree Hill, hiding behind their fortifications. Silencing them.
“It’s the One Tree Hill
A test of our will
The One Tree Hill
All the Human Beans we’re going to kill
The enemy army shuddered. Yet they did not break and run. The Witch protected them, or so they believed. Perhaps it was simply pragmatism, Deer Ryan reflected.
Lily had created the Garden’s Seeds, the last produce this world knew. The few places of arable soil were zealously guarded. In the same way, she had given this last hill life where all else had ended. She had created the deer-people, ended the zombie apocalypse single-handedly as it seemed the undead would roll over the world like a Master-rank player soloing a team of Bronze-ranks.
She had saved Ryan’s life. They had been friends. So why…?
There was no answer to be given. At least, none he would not gain until he had his horns at Lily’s throat. Deer Ryan listened in silence as the singing continued, led by Brodeer. Like Deer Ryan, he had a reason to fight; Beans had eaten his family and turned his mother into a rug.
“We’re gonna fight, fight, fight
‘Til the light, light, light
Escapes their eyes
And they die!”
Deer Ryan winced slightly. That had to be Brodeer’s idea of inspiring lyrics. However, it was direct and got the point across. The Beans had gone silent as the army sang.
…Then they began to hoot and jeer at the deer. They rattled their weapons, daring the deer to attack their entrenched positions.
That, Deer Ryan would not do. He was loathe to order another attack like this as well. It had not been a pogchamp battle. He turned, frustrated, at a loss of how to proceed.
“Brodeer, we can’t kill the Beans efficiently enough. They’re too tough. Too hard to defeat. We need a new plan.”
Deer Ryan and Brodeer discussed the issue as night fell and both armies camped, waiting for dawn and the conflict to resume. If you could call it night. There were no stars visible in the dark haze. Not even Lily could fully heal the damage from the bombs, which had torn parts of Earth into space and the low orbit they now maintained.
Brodseer did not appear as worried as Deer Ryan thought. Indeed, his eyes glittered, still alight with the triumph of killing so many Beans.
“Don’t worry, General Deer Ryan. I thought of the same thing and as luck would have it—there’s someone who can help us.”
Deer Ryan was astonished. Brodeer was of course referring to the wandering traders who sold the actually edible food to Beans; few deer traded with them.
After all, they could eat grass, to the envy of Beans. Yet Brodeer wasn’t done.
“The Vendor is a deer, like us, so we can trust them, General. There’s only one man who can help us. He’s waiting in the camp. Would you like to meet him?”
How was a Vendor going to help them? They sometimes sold old devices, which they considered as magical as Lily, but Deer Ryan knew it was technology from before the end of the world. Lily had real magic. What could they have…?
He heard the Vendor before he saw him. A mumbling, shuffling click-clack of hooves, an undeady voice. When the new deer finally trotted into the tent, he looked…downtrodeed.
No, that was a poor word for it. Downtrodden implied there had ever been an ‘up’. This deer was like depression incarnate. He mumbled to himself, twitching, shadows around his eyes.
“General, I present to you, the Vendor. Pedeer!”
Brodeer was triumphant. Aft er a moment he nudged the other deer. The Vendor started, then spoke in a slow, melancholy monotone.
“My name is Pedeer and I sell guns. Wow.”
Deer Ryan’s jaw dropped. Guns? He had thought no one had a gun since the zombie—Pedeer brandished a laser gun attached to one hoof and Deer Ryan recoiled.
He pressed a button on his hoof, and the gun fired. It blasted a hole through the tent, out of the other side, and a jet of light vanished two hundred feet into the air. Brodeer reeled back; Deer Ryan was speechless.
Pedeer had affixed the gun to one hoof by a contraption that allowed him to fire it at a touch of the hoof. He smiled—or pretended to, waving the gun around.
“Isn’t this fun?”
He looked at the shocked Brodeer, who had never seen a gun, only heard the stories. At Deer Ryan’s face. After a second, Pedeer’s face crumpled up. He muttered as he slumped to the ground.
“…Please buy my guns.”
Deer Ryan looked at the half-comatose gun-vendor, at Brodeer’s excited look. He slowly stared at the One Tree Hill, where Lily still sat, above the fighting. He looked at Pedeer and the guns.
The wretched guns, which had not stopped the zombies or done anything. Deer Ryan closed this eyes.
Then he bought the guns.
End of Act 2.
Act 3 – Scarrella de Ville
They called her the Witch, without knowing why. The Witch, who lived on One Tree Hill and who dictated…everything.
Not that you would know it, to look at the pitiful civilization of the Beans. In fact, the Witch seldom descended from her hill; the times she did were full of wrath, or to fight what might wipe out the last of Beans or threaten her paradise among the wastelands.
The Witch could order anything she wished, hence the defense of the Beans of her hill. However, in practice she seldom demanded anything.
They also forgot, Deer-people, Bean-people, all but the oldest Vendors and those like Deer Ryan that she had not always been the Witch, who had ended the zombie apocalypse, who had created the Garden’s Seeds that brought grass and other plants back, who had created the first Deer-people to begin with.
Once, she had been just…Lily.
The clash of armies began anon, despite the sun having yet to rise. This surprised the Beans, as the bloody losses of the Deer were unlikely to make them keen to assault the entrenched Beans.
However, the ‘attack’, when it came, was strange.
Six Deer trotted forwards towards One Tree Hill, ignoring the arrows and spears thrown from out of range. Likewise, they disregarded the Bean’s jeering and shouts.
Brodeer led the five of his best Deer-people as Deer Ryan watched, ready to intervene if things went south. Brodeer had insisted on participating. Now, his face grinned as he lifted the little, strange, metallic object with one hoof and pressed the button.
The glowing green beam shot out and vaporized a Bean, nearly four hundred feet away, who had been jeering as she leaned out of cover. The Bean fell back, headless, torso scorched up to…well, what had been its shoulders. The smoking body fell.
The Beans went quiet. In silence, Brodeer spoke.
The other five Deer raised their guns and fired. Green light shot towards One Tree Hill. The shots missed; none of them were expert marks…deer.
Also, it was night, they were using the guns for the first time in their lives.
And they were Deer. They had hooves, not hands.
Nevertheless, the one lucky shot and the five other shots made the Beans run for cover. Brodeer and the other five deer blazed away as Deer Ryan watched. A sight he thought he would never see since the zombie apocalypse.
Humanity had invented laser technology shortly before the zombie outbreak. It didn’t help that much.
The Beans scattered for cover as the lasers destroyed grounds and a few Beans; but the distant laser fire was wildly inaccurate. Nevertheless, they were outranged by the deadly weapons. They could only hunker down as Brodeer shouted encouragement.
“Pogchamp! Did you see that? I’m popping off! Keep firing! Look at those Beans, running like cowards!”
One of the other Deer with guns indicated his amusement as he fired. Deer Ryan almost expected the Bean’s defenses to crumble in that first minute of firing. Indeed, many fled up to the castle on the hill, the Witch’s last abode, and it looked like they were crumbling. Until…
The guns ran out of power. Brodeer pressed the trigger, but saw nothing happen. He cursed as he remembered Pedeer’s warning.
“Out of power. Pausechamp! Fall back!”
The five Deer trotted back as Brodeer, triumphantly but frustrated, made his way to Deer Ryan.
“Impressive. However, you had pepega-aim.”
Brodeer accepted the admonishment with a ducked head.
“We’ll smurf them next time, General. Just have to wait for the guns to recharge. And if they attack…it’s our war to lose, now!”
Indeed, that seemed to be the case. Deer Ryan looked up towards the castle. However, he knew all of this was still too easy. The Witch had yet to make her appearance on the battlefield. When she did…
“Lily. We have to do something about her.”
“The guns won’t work?”
Brodeer looked wary. Deer Ryan held up a hoof.
“They might now. I don’t know her powers. We should…think up contingency plans, just in case. You keep attacking the Beans. I’ll do that.”
The younger Deer was all too happy to take charge of the assault. Deer Ryan retreated to plan this next obstacle. After all, Lily could hardly not know he was coming for her. He’d sent her letters and everything. And there was an army of Deer on her doorstep.
If she had not shown herself, she must have had a terrible plan in motion. Who knew what terrible schemes she was coming up with? Deer Ryan began to sweat as he tried to make counterplans to deal with the power of the Witch.
In the domain of the Witch, on top of One Tree Hill, under the vast branches of the tree itself, was the castle. The stone fortifications, augmented by salvaged metal and glass, had once been ugly; now, it was a grand structure, a remnant of the old world given its brilliance by magic.
The vast hallways and defenses could hold off the Deer should they make it up here—at least, if they didn’t have those guns. Now, the Beans were afraid.
So much so that one crept along the hallways, as they narrowed, entering the heart of the fortress. There, the imposing line work of defenses, natural choke points, and so on that the Beans occupied turned to a place where no one went.
No one, save the Witch. To trespass in the inner sanctum was death. However, he dared it just this once. The stone hallway, past the reinforced door, became the strange landscape of the Witch’s abode. He gulped as he stared at the foreign environs, as terrifying to him as any blasted remnant of the world he knew, filled with toxic waste and monsters.
What was this strange floor? He prodded at the pink carpet with one floor, the…strange paper on the walls. Paper? What luxury! What madness!
In her abode, the Witch of One Tree Hill, the great nemesis of Deer Ryan, Lily, was sitting at a strange instrument.
It looked, to the uncomprehending Beans, like a magical device. But then again, so did everything in her room. The carpeted floors, the chandelier—as this room was vast enough to hold one comfortably—
Numerous pillows, a King-sized bed…next to a second King-sized bed, strewn with blankets and pillows, posters and pictures of the old world on the walls.
Six windows with curtains if she desired to peek out at the world beyond. Not that it happened often. Indeed, there was no flame or natural lightning needed; an electric glow filled the room.
Light bulbs, a glowing computer, and all the consoles of the old world. At the moment, the screen was showing a rapping clown on the computer, a rhythm-game whose level she had yet to beat after about forty years.
All of this created an atmosphere that terrified the few Beans who had ever made it inside, because they did not understand this world, so alien from the desperate life they lived. Nor did it fit the image of a Witch they maintained.
However, it made sense. If you were going to be a magical, tyrannical Witch with a castle, you had better make it a comfy one, surely.
Pride of place in this vast bedroom was a few plushies, mostly shaped like dogs, some of which had been magically shrunk or grown to massive size. However, at the moment, Lily the Witch paid no attention to such trivial things. She was in front of the keyboard…the…
Piano. The electric piano hummed with power, provided by magic, and she delicately touched the keys. Then—she began to sing.
“If there was a zombie apocalypse, I’d let my dog eat me.
I’d start with the thighs, where the fatty part lies.
Thick thighs save lives! Quite literally this time.
My flesh will taste okay. My dog will eat the pain away.
Cause the whole world is dyin’ and I’m tired of surviving…”
Aside from playing games, Lily liked to play the piano and sing. Composing songs was her hobby and talent, as well as gaming.
The magic thing was really a sort of secondary thing she’d gotten into with the zombie apocalypse. Yet how it followed her.
As was the case now. The Witch stopped singing as the Bean rapped on her door.
“Witch Lily! Witch Lily?”
She turned, a snap in her voice, unaccustomed to being interrupted for any reason. The cringing Bean appeared as the door flew open with a single gesture from her fingers.
“Witch! The Deer are attacking!”
“So? Get rid of them! And get off my carpet!”
The Witch looked irritable. She was a shorter Human than the Deer-people or most beans, with black hair and round glasses. The prostate Bean, Captain of her Guard, scrambled up hastily.
“B-but Witch Lily! They have a strange new weapon we can’t fight! Guns?”
Lily’s eyes widened for a moment. Then she realized what had happened. She went to a window and opened it. The Deer had already recharged the guns enough for another volley; the green flashes lit up the darkness below. She scowled.
“Pedeer! I told him not to sell guns to people except me.”
Which he hadn’t done, citing ‘tyranny’ and other factors the last time they’d met. Lily sat in her chair, arms folded. Then she shrugged.
“Okay, you keep fighting. I’ll deal with them if they get to the castle.”
She waved a hand at the Bean without looking at him. He hesitated.
“Witch Lily? We’ll lose, though! We, your loyal Beans are dying! The Deer will reach the castle by tomorrow night at this rate!”
He had spoken with too much temerity. The ire of the Witch had been roused. She slowly turned her head and he flinched at the wrath and ruination in her eyes. Slowly, Lily spoke.
“…All the Beans will die? Well, I don’t fucking care. If the Deer get here, I’ll just blast them or magic with something. Now, get lost!”
The Bean fled as she pointed a finger at him. After a moment, Lily forgot all about him. She went back to her computer and began playing again
“Shit. One more game! I nearly have it…”
The rapping clown defied her attempts to beat the level with 0 misses as she tapped furiously on the keyboard.
Thus, the Witch waited, caring not at all for the danger. Deer Ryan was coming. What did that matter? The world was…she sat there. Lonely.
They had all lost something. Deer Ryan, her, the Vendors and beings of old, like Pedeer, another of the people she’d saved.
Lonely, alone. The Witch of One Tree Hill feared no guns. What could a gun do that time had not already?
As she kept playing the same level, tears did not trickle down her cheeks. She did not mourn with a word or action.
She was so long past grief as for it to be meaningless.
Pedeer, the travelling Deer Vendor who sold guns, sold his guns. He made lots of money…for Deer. Which was actually just grass and seeds.
Because you ate grass and seeds to live and money was useless. He ate the grass, counting the seeds as he sat in his home, near One Tree Hill.
Lots of money. Seeds. Whatever. Pedeer tried to smile, but all that emerged was the horrible rictus, as when he’d tried to complete the sale. Smiling had the opposite effect on most people that he intended; Brodeer and Deer Ryan had barely been able to keep their expressions straight as the terrible grin froze on Pedeer’s face.
The ‘home’ that Pedeer lived in was a burnt shell of a place, barely fixed up enough to live in. Looted and destroyed like every place aside from the Witch’s castle. Unlike her, he had no magic.
Just guns. Lots of guns. They were all lying in a pile in one corner of the barren home, aside from a table, a kitchen, the walls of which had long since fallen in, a few utensils on said table, and Pedeer himself.
Perhaps it was a hazard to keep so many charged, powerful guns lying about. One explosion and this house would probably destroy everything in a square mile in the explosion of contained power. Pedeer didn’t care. Unlike Lily, he had not reached her level of apathetic indifference.
He was close…more like apathetic despair at this point. He hummed, quietly, as he sorted his seed money.
“My name is Pedeer and I sell guns. And I’ve got absolutely no one. My name is Pedeer.”
He paused. Gulped, hard.
“I-isn’t this fun? Please…buy my guns. Please.”
There was no one to answer, however. Only Pedeer sat in the room, his Human face on the Deer body morose, his hooves clumsily rearranging the seeds.
And yet, someone did speak. Someone did reply.
“Don’t say that, Pedeer! Peter, we’re here for you!”
It was a cheerful female voice, piping up. Pedeer’s head rose. Someone was using his name. His original name before he had become a Deer, like Deer Ryan had once been called…Ryan.
“Yeah, you’re not alone!”
Another voice piped up. Where was it coming from? Oh—
The utensils in front of Pedeer were a plate, with a fork on the left, and a spoon on the right. The only utensils in Pedeer’s house, that he ate off of. Now, the fork had spoken up, in a bright, chipper voice.
The first speaker had been WendyPlate, so named because she sounded like his old friend, Wendy. The next was Forkdin, whose voice sounded uncannily like Brodin’s, whom Pedeer had just met. The last? The spoon chipped in with a voice like the Witch herself.
SpoonLily’s voice was reassuring.
“We believe in you, Pet—”
Pedeer bellowed. The utensils went quiet, hushed by the fury in their master’s voice. Peter scowled around.
“I don’t need encouragement from you! You—you’re just utensils! I eat off you!”
He scowled at the plate, fork, and spoon. There was no immediate reply. After a second, Pedeer’s eyes crossed. The right side of his mouth moved and WendyPlate responded.
“Don’t say that, Peter! We’re your best friends! We love you!”
“Yeah! Peter is the best!”
“I agree! Good job on selling those guns, Peter!”
“Thank you, SpoonLily.”
Pedeer brightened up after a moment. He bustled around his empty home, then decided it was time to treat himself. He found a device, pressed a few buttons.
In the shattered world after apocalypse, there was at least still delivery services. At least, for Vendors who used one of the remaining services in the world. Pedeer tapped a few times with his hooves, and settled back. Occasionally, one of the utensils commented. Pedeer, in a blissful haze, waited.
It would take thousands of seeds for a single, delicious, order of food, but it would be real food, not grass, from the old world. Like…linguini. Or a burger.
He had never been able to afford a takeout delivery before. Now he was rolling in seeds, metaphorically, Pedeer was looking forwards to eating the first good meal in nearly forty years. He began to pace…then had to sit down and relax.
Pedeer was excited, but so tired from selling his guns that he sat back in his chair, ignoring the voices of his utensils, still praising his salesmanship. He must have dozed off, because the next thing he knew, a rapping on the door made him sit up. He heard a voice from beyond.
“Hello? Delivery for Mister Pedeer.”
The voice was feminine, commanding, booming, yet seductive. Pedeer sat up, his eyes widening. Forkdin cried out.
“Master, there’s someone at the door.”
WendyPlate gasped in surprise.
“Could it be?”
SpoonLily was just as excited. If she could have moved to crane a neck…and if she wasn’t an inanimate spoon, she would have gotten up to see.
“Is it her?”
Only one person operated the last delivery service in the world. One person could process the orders, on the wireless service despite every satellite in the world having long since crashed to earth or being destroyed. Could…bring excellent food made with ingredients long since lost to the world.
“Is it really her? Is it really real? I thought it was a scam!”
A new utensil spoke up, via Pedeer. RyanCup was excited as Pedeer stared at the door, transfixed for a moment. The utensils began to sing.
“It’s the uber of the eats, the uber of the eats, the uber uber uber uber uber of the eats…”
A reference to something only someone from the old world like Pedeer would understand. Yet, the person on the other side of the door did get it, because a hearty laugh made Pedeer jump and the song cut off. The door swung open and a woman, wearing a pointed hat, swept into his home.
Scarrella de Ville, the nom de guerre of the self-styled ‘last delivery-Witch in the world’, was a giant of a woman. Eight feet tall, she loomed over Pedeer, her magnificent hat—not to mention her magnificent bodice, complimented by a low-cut blouse—dwarfing the smaller Vendor. He stared up at her, mouth open wide.
Her voice was like honey mixed with gravel, her dark mane of hair sweeping around her body. In one hand she held the food, still steaming, prepared with magic.
A Witch. Another Witch, although known to far fewer than Lily. It was Pedeer’s first time meeting her, although he had, of course, heard of her. He stammered as she placed the food on the table, on top of WendyPlate.
“I heard you were here. And you just placed an order. So, here’s your food.”
Scarrella de Ville seductively patted Pedeer on the…antlers, cupping her chin with a hand before she drew back. The Vendor stuttered, face going crimson.
He was so stunned by the Witch, and her presence, that thoughts completely fled his mind. Scarrella waited, then, as it became clear he was not going to speak, purred again.
“Aren’t you going to…give me a tip?”
Her brows gently waggled, hinting, teasing. Pedeer was, by now, as red as the rare and expensive tomatoes of the old world. He stuttered, unable to give a coherent response.
“O-oh, um, well—”
A voice whispered from the side—of Pedeer’s mouth. WendyPlate broke in, her voice encouragingly.
“You can do it, Pedeer!”
“We believe in you!”
RyanCup added his encouragement. Even Scarrella, delivery-Witch, who had seen many horrible things since the end of the world…was temporarily stunned into silence by the cheerful utensils. However, she rallied as Pedeer gave her his best ‘smile’ and gestured to the table—there were no chairs in his home.
“Would you like to um…step in for some tea, Miss de Ville?”
“I’d love that, darling.”
Seizing on the tremulous invitation, Scarrella appeared at the table, sitting gracefully. She leaned over, once again leaning over the smaller Pedeer.
“So kind of you to invite me into your lovely home. I don’t get many orders these days…tell me about yourself. Mister Pedeer, isn’t it? Oh, the food is getting cold. Why don’t I feed you while we talk?”
She began to open the packed takeout. Pedeer couldn’t believe his luck. He gulped, wondering if this was a dream, but his eyes were alight with hope, real hope for the first time. The mutual attraction in the air…he tried to speak, but his throat was dry.
“Use me, Pedeer! Use me!”
RyanCup urged him and Pedeer drank some water. Forkdin was whispering.
“She’s in! She’s in! Don’t blow your chance!”
Pedeer smiled, actually smiled. He nodded at his friends.
He turned, clearing his throat, and looked at Scarella de Ville. He told himself it was like selling guns. Nothing to it. So, he put on his best smile and launched into his pitch.
“So, my name is Pedeer, and I sell guns…”
End of Act 3.
Act 4 – Wendy the Witchdeer
The siege of One Tree Hill had gone on for three days. The Deer army, now led by Brodeer and the gun-toting Deer-soldiers were pushing the Beans back. Day after day, hour after hour, they launched volleys of laser fire at the Witch’s forces, kill beans, destroying the hill piece by piece.
Yet—it was not going fast enough. Deer Ryan had heard Brodeer’s estimates that it would all be over by the first night. He hadn’t expected that of course, but he had expected to reach the castle by now.
That the Deer army had failed was not due to a lack of marksmanship or morale; if anything, the guns had given the edge over the Bean army that the Beans could not overcome.
It was not they who stopped the Deers, though. Rather, it was her.
The Witch. She stood on her castle’s battlements, shouted an obscenity, blocking the green bolts from the guns coming at her with a wave of her wand, and reduced dozens of Deers to ash with a single flick of her wrist. Then—after repeating the gesture for five minutes, she got bored and went back inside.
The power of a Witch was beyond mere guns and Deers to fight against. Deer Ryan bellowed in fury and grief as he saw his army once again pull back, unable to even keep the base of the hill as Witch Lily emerged.
Her wanton destruction and overwhelming magical power were bad enough, but she had the temerity to add insult to injury. Even as she disappeared, a single piece of paper fluttered down towards him, bearing her unmistakable handwriting.
It’s been some years.
Since I cooked your children.
They had so much fear.
But that made them taste better.
Hope you’re doing well!
The furious voice roused the dispirited defenders trotting back towards him towards the camp. Brodeer, unable to find a way to defeat Lily, saw his General leave the front lines and walk furiously through the camp of the Deer.
It was then, as Deer Ryan searched for a way to defeat Lily, that he found someone waiting for him in the camp.
Not a Bean; no Bean or even Vendor could reach Deer Ryan in the Deer army so easily. Thus, this visitor was a Deer, like him, an ally.
…But she had a pointed hat. She was, in fact—Deer Ryan stared in shock—
The unknown Witch-deer spoke, her magical power unmistakable, surprising Deer Ryan no end. He had thought that no other Witches existed in this world but Lily! Perhaps a foolish assumption, born out of his obsession with vengeance, but now this foreign Witch presented herself to him.
“I saw that last battle. Not good. I’ve got something that might be able to help you, though, General.”
You’re a Witch! Yet it seemed superfluous, not to mention pointless to say this. The Witch-deer, whose name as it transpired, was Wendy, raised one eyebrow.
Wendeer Witch. Traveller from lands so far distant that even few other Deer had heard of her. However, a Witch, possessing rare magical power. At first, Deer Ryan had hopes this was the final piece in defeating Lily—but Wendeer shook her head.
“I have magic. Not enough to defeat Lily. Not directly. She smurfs too hard.”
Deer Ryan muttered. It had been too much to hope for a miracle. However, Wendeer Witch waved a hoof for his attention.
“Wait, I still have something that might be able to help you.”
He perked back up. Wendeer nodded, a mischievous smile playing across her face.
“I have a spell, of sorts. It’s not as powerful as Lily’s magic, but it’s like hers. It turns whoever you want…into a Deer.”
Deer Ryan’s eyes widened. The same spell Lily had used on him! It was the spell that had created the Deer-people. And she was suggesting….
“Would she lose all her powers? You can do that? To Lily?”
Wendeer chuckled, more sinisterly now. She tilted her pointed hat.
“I am the best deer-witch in town. Just give me a chance to get up One Tree Hill and into the castle. If you cause a diversion, I can get in and…do the rest.”
Her eyes glittered. Deer Ryan was tempted—yet he had to ask why Wendeer Witch was so committed. From any other Deer, avenging his children and Deer being eaten as meat would be enough. But her?
“Why are you so interested in killing Lily the Witch? Just vengeance?”
Wendeer hesitated. She eyed Deer Ryan, but eventually shook her head.
“Not really. If I kill Lily, that’s one less Witch in this world. Which means I get her magical power. If I turn her into a Deer, she loses her magic anyways. You get your vengeance—I get my magic. Sounds fair?”
It took him only a moment to nod. He didn’t care what happened after killing Lily. Deer Ryan reached out, and Wendeer and he clicked hooves.
“Very well. We have a deal.”
It was night once more when the Deer launched an attack. Guns blazed at One Tree Hill from afar, mainly distracting more than anything else. Yet a hundred Deer, hand-picked by Brodeer, had volunteered to charge up the hill. They fought in the darkness with the Beans in savage hand-to-antler combat, bleeding, dying…
All so a single Deer-witch could ascend in the chaos of battle and reach the castle. She had her tricks of course; her camouflage spell wasn’t good enough to evade the watchful Bean guards without a distraction, but it did the trick.
She hummed as she ascended, a menacing smile playing across her face.
“She doesn’t know what’s coming.
I’m going to turn her into a deer.
She’s going to turn into a deer
Ha ha ha ha ha.”
The vicarious joy of defeating another one of her kind ran through her. It was nothing personal; Wendeer had never even met Lily the Witch. It was just survival. One less Witch meant more magic for the rest, and there had never been many.
She crept through the castle, evading panicked Beans; their numbers were depleting day by day, and more still had fled what they saw as a hopeless battle from the determined Deer, who would not relent even when the Witch attacked.
Corridor after corridor she walked, her only evidence a shadow flitting across the fortifications. Past Beans…until she reached the padded, carpeted corridor. There, Wendeer stopped.
This was when the fun and game ended. She had plotted with Deer Ryan how to neutralize Lily, and there were few ways for the spell to work.
The problem was that Lily was a Witch, and so just casting the magic at her wouldn’t take effect. A more ingenious method was necessary, and Wendeer had killed six other Witches with this one trick.
“There’s her room! And she’s inside!”
Wendeer whispered, gleefully, hearing the distant sounds of a piano’s note echoing through the inner sanctum. She reached into her saddlebags…and pulled out a contained filled with chicken nuggets.
“All I have to do is get her to eat these magical spicy nuggets. To trick her, though…”
She lifted a hoof and her Deer-body began to transform. In the shadowed hallway, gone was the form of the Deer-witch. And there, standing a bit unsteadily on her two feet was…
Wendy the Human. No Bean, but a Human! She had lied a bit to Deer Ryan. She was the best Deer-witch in town, or in the world, it was true.
But she was also a Witch. She crept forwards, her clothing bearing the Witch takeout delivery service’s logo.
Witcheats. She rapped, twice, on the door, and the piano playing and voice stopped. It had been quite a lovely melody too. Wendy felt a moment’s pang as she heard the shuffling footsteps and ill-natured swearing getting closer.
It had been a long time since she’d heard music, actual music like this. However, a Witch had to do…whatever the hell she wanted, really. There were no rules.
She suppressed the pang, putting on a fake smile, ready to make up an excuse to get Lily to eat the magical, poisoned food. The door opened, and the shorter Witch poked her head out, glaring.
“Who is it?”
“Hello, I’m a delivery—”
Wendeer launched into her rehearsed lines, but the other Witch interrupted her. Lily stared at Wendy and spoke.
“I think I’m in love with you.”
The words echoed in the corridor. For a moment, Wendeer didn’t believe her own, Human ears. She stared at Lily, at a loss for words until she spluttered.
For answer, Lily took her hands, ignoring the fake takeout completely. She stared at Wendeer, agog. Her voice was a song, like the very same melodies she composed.
“I love you, I think I’ve just met, but I’m in love with you…”
It was so sudden that Wendeer didn’t know what to say. Was it a spell of infatuation that Lily had cast upon herself.
No, wait. The answer was far more simple.
Lily—the Witch of One Tree Hill—looked at Wendeer, unmistakably a Human being, not a Human Bean, the twisted survivors of the apocalypse, mockeries of humanity. She looked at a fellow Human.
Someone like her, after so long. Love? If it could bloom in a moment, perhaps it lay in the desperate loneliness, the isolation after the world burned.
In hope. She took Wendy’s hand, and the other Witch didn’t know what to say.
Don’t argue, use it! You can turn her into a Deer! You can…
Can what? Kill her, and let Deer Ryan have his vengeance and be the best Witch in a world like this? Wendeer hesitated. In that moment, she had the same epiphany that had struck Lily. A terrible loneliness, Witches killing Witches, the dead world…
Her hand tightened on Lily’s. Wendy heard the voice coming out of her mouth, surprising her as much as Lily.
“Oh. Well…I think I love you too!”
The admission made both Witches start. They looked at each other. Then—laughed. They took hands, the magical chicken nuggets falling to the ground, forgotten completely. They danced into Lily’s room, laughing, singing.
“I think we’re in love! I think I’ve just met, but I’m in love with you. I think we’re in love with each other, let’s get married!”
Their song echoed in the castle, and startled Beans looked up to see both Witches emerge, laughing, announcing the coming nuptials. Happy.
War was forgotten. Plans to kill Lily—abandoned. The Witch of One Tree Hill and Wendeer joined hands, finding love after so long.
All was well.
Except for Deer Ryan. He listened, as news of Wendeer’s betrayal reached him. Listened, cursed, raged. Yet his vengeance?
It could not be stopped.
End of Act 4.
Act 5 – The Wedding
An organ’s music played down the aisle of the newly-created church in the castle on top of One Tree Hill. Beans stood in the pews of the wedding ceremony, watching as the two Witches stood together, in wedding dress.
The wedding had been put together almost as quickly as the declaration of love between the two Witches. Magic worked wonders, and the magic of love was even stronger.
Beans—all those not holding the walls—were present, armed with flowers to watch the moment. The two Witches had even found a minister.
Minister Hjune was another survivor of the old world, ostensibly a Vendor, but one ordained before the zombie apocalypse and who performed the last marriages. He had been summoned overnight to perform the marriage. Now, having welcomed the guests, made the much shorter vows in this post-apocaplytic world, he turned to the two Witches.
This was how it ended. As Wendeer and Lily smiled at each other, the Minister solemnly intoned.
“Do you, Wendy Witch, take Lily, the Witch of One Tree Hill, as your lawfully wedded wife?”
Wendy’s eyes might have been a touch overfull, but not enough to miss a moment of this. The Minister nodded as Beans began to applaud—then broke off, realizing they were too soon—and turned to the shorter Witch.
“And do you, Lily, take Wendy, known as Wendeer the Witch, as your lawfully wedded wife?”
Beans did celebrate then, still too early, but to celebrate the love that would change the Witch of One Tree Hill, give hope to the future.
The first hope since the zombie apocalypse had ended everything. Perhaps it was ironic, then, that the same Witch, Lily, who had ended the apocalypse, the first Witch, creator of Deer people, stood here now, smiling at her beloved. Minster Hjune had to wave his hands for silence, and he spoke, a smile on his face.
“Then, if there are no further objections, I now pronounce you—”
Of course, that was what the listeners had been waiting for. At this moment, while all eyes were on the alter, the ragged team who had fought through the ongoing battle burst into action. The Deer leading them, who had waited so long for this moment—threw open the doors and fired.
Deer Ryan bellowed into the room. He fired.
This was how it ended. A door burst open. The Witches turned. The Minister Hjune blinked.
A smoking crater appeared in his stomach. He clutched at it—staggered—
Deer Ryan entered the room as the Deer-soldiers behind him, led by Brodeer, swept the wedding ceremony with fire. The guns blasted Beans where they stood, mid-celebration. In moments—all lay dead, save for the team of a dozen deer, Brodeer, Deer Ryan, and the two Witches.
Lily screamed. She reached for her wand, but she had left it under her dress for the wedding! She froze as the Deer-soldiers spread out, guns aimed at her.
Her, and Wendy. The two Witches held their hands up, staring at Deer Ryan as he grimly approached.
Deer Ryan was wounded, limping, and his small cohort all had wounds. However—here thy were. Hundreds, thousands of deer had died to let them break through, fighting through the castle.
Yet here they were. He aimed at Lily’s chest with the gun, as Brodeer waited, teeth bared, smiling with the carnage, waiting.
“Deer Ryan, stop! Don’t do this!”
Wendy raised her arms, trying to shield Lily. Deer Ryan looked at her, the light of betrayal in his eyes. His chest rose and fell, sweat and blood slicking his fur and head.
“Wendeer, don’t do this. Don’t marry her. She…she killed and ate my children! How could you fall in love with her?”
He pointed, on the verge of discharging the gun. It was so easy. All it would take was a single shot…
But there were too many questions to ask. Or at least…he wanted to look her in the eyes a little longer. The object of his vengeance was shocked, not as smug or wretchedly evil as he had seen her. Almost as if she was more concerned with Wendy’s life than her own.
No—Deer Ryan’s eyes narrowed. He heard a voice from the side.
“Do we do it, General? Do we shoot and do what she did to you? Take what she loves most?”
He aimed at Wendeer. Deer Ryan, Lily, even the other Deer started. Yet there was no hesitation in Brodeer’s eyes. Only pure malice. Death? Death was not enough at this point. He only wanted to know if they could twist the knife before both died.
Worst, Deer Ryan wanted to let him. He held up his free hoof, voice trembling.
“You ate his children.”
Wendeer gulped, looking from Deer Ryan to Lily. Clearly looking for a way to resolve this without bloodshed. Finding none. Who could excuse that?
Lily tried. The Witch looked at Deer Ryan, pleadingly. Then at Wendeer.
“It’s not me, Wendeer. That’s…that’s not who I am anymore. That was—”
Deer Ryan bellowed. He pressed the button and the gun fired, but it went wide of the two, he was shaking so badly with rage. Lily ducked, but shouted back.
“Wait! Wait! Did you say, anymore? Pausechamp—”
Wendeer turned to Lily, confused. Lily looked at her and Deer Ryan’s gun wavered. He began to lower it when he heard a sound.
A hole opened up in Wendeer’s stomach. Then, three more in her torso. The green flashes of light were followed by her collapsing body. A scream.
“Wendeer! No! Noooooo!”
It came from Lily as she grabbed at the corpse. Trying to cast a spell, trying to…
It was no use. Wendeer was already dead. A smile lingered on her face. And the other Deer, the one lowering the smoking gun, lowered it uncertainly.
Because he’d been aiming at Lily. Yet Wendeer lay dead.
“Why did…why did she take the bullet?”
Deer Ryan stared at Wendeer’s body. She had thrown herself forwards. Why? He had thought there was no way love could bloom, not so quickly. Not—
“You. You killed them!”
Lily’s head rose. Tears ran from her face. Deer Ryan hesitated.
Did she mean the Beans? Or the Minister? But—Deer Ryan saw—the Minister was clutching at his stomach, eyes narrowed in pain, breathing hard, but alive. Lily shook her head.
“Pausechamp. Pausechamp. What do you mean by ‘them’?”
The other Deer wrestled with Brodeer’s gun, yet Deer Ryan’s entire attention was focused on this small mystery as he aimed at Lily. She spoke.
“She was pregnant with our child.”
“What? Impossible! That’s—actually not possible.”
Deer Ryan felt compelled to point this out, even as his mind reeled from Lily’s voice. Her grief was so genuine. The Witch shrieked back.
“We’re magic, asshole! She was pregnant! You did exactly what do you did to me, congrats. Want to eat her?”
She cradled Wendeer too protectively. Deer Ryan slowly backed up. He dropped his gun in horror. He’d—no—but—
“Ow. Hurts, doesn’t it?”
Brodeer just smirked. Oblivious to his General’s anguish. His satisfaction turned to confusion as Deer Ryan stumbled backwards, muttering to himself.
“Dear Lily. Dear Lily…”
Lily was grasping for a wand amidst the blood, thinking only of vengeance, ready to join Wendeer. Now though, she, the other deer, Brodeer, everyone, looked at Deer Ryan. He was muttering to himself as he sometimes did. As if he was writing that letter. When he looked up, at her, it was with tears in his eyes.
I became what I despised the most.
I’ve created this ugly, empty ghost
What do I do? Am I too late to save?
How can I face my children in the grave?”
It was one of his letters, his thoughts. One of the thousands of unsent letters over his quest for vengeance to his lost friend. Only now—it was delivered in a moment. She looked up at him, her dress stained with blood. Tears between both. For once, they met each other’s eyes, understanding each other again.
Until once more, the gun fired.
Deer Ryan jerked, raising his own hoof, but his gun had fallen to the floor. He saw his fellow Deer-soldiers falling! Dying—holes opening up in their bodies as two guns fired from two hooves. There stood their killer, his eyes filled with a blood-fury that has dissolved reasoning.
“I—Brodeer? What have you done?”
Deer Ryan stared down at the dead Deer. Their comrades! Their soldiers, gunned down by their commander! He looked at Brodeer, but now a gun was pointing at him and Lily both.
Panting, Brodeer spoke.
“You’re weak, General. I always knew you were weak!”
His eyes were rolling, his mouth foaming at the corners. Something in him had well and truly snapped with the death of Wendeer. Minster Hjune tried to raise himself upwards, collapsing as the crater in his stomach rendered him too weak.
“What is the meaning of this? You c—”
A second laser bolt obliterated at his head. Now, only three people in the chapel remained. Brodeer. Lily the Witch, holding Wendeer’s body.
And Deer Ryan.
“Brodeer, don’t do this.”
He beseeched the younger Deer, whom he had considered a friend. A…son?
But not his son and daughter. Not truly. Now, Brodeer looked at him, all loyalty forgotten, transformed, rather, into contempt and hatred as his image of General Deer Ryan, the avenger, the great nemesis of Lily the Witch, evaporated.
“General, you’re too weak. You can’t even kill the Witch? You can’t lead the army.”
“The army? What army? Lily’s—we’ve won. There’s no more need foro the Deer army!”
“Oh yes there is. Until every Bean is dead—you don’t have the stomach for it. You couldn’t even shoot her!”
Brodeer waved the gun at Deer Ryan. The older Deer looked for his gun, but it was on the floor and Brodeer…both he and Lily were frozen. Helpless.
“You’re becoming a monster, Brodeer.”
“Am I? Am I?”
Brodeer threw back his head and laughed, his Deer torso rearing back as his Human face mocked Deer Ryan. He shouted around, losing himself deeper in his madness.
“I guess I am, if you say so, General! I am the evil bad guy! All you must now die!”
“We won’t let you!”
Brodeer’s guns wavered. He swung around, fired. But the answering volley of green laser bolts made him and everyone else dive to the floor. Deer Ryan seized the gun in front of him and rolled to his hooves. So did Lily, with a gun of her own, having lost her wand. They saw, in the doorway, a pair of Deer-soldiers.
“Commander Brodeer, you are under arrest for trying to kill the General!”
Mideer, the Sergeant who had survived the first clashes with the Beans, raised one of the guns and aimed it at Brodeer. He snarled as a second squad moved in.
“Traitors! Kill Lily! The Witch is right there! Before she escapes!”
“No, stop Brodeer!”
Deer Ryan bellowed. The Deer-squad hesitated, swiveling the guns between him and Brodeer and Lily. As they looked at each other uncertainly—one of the soldier’s head exploded. A hail of laser bullets cut down the entire squad, except for Mideer. She threw herself forwards, turning to face the assailant.
Deer Ryan, Brodeer, both froze, seeing the hail of laser bullets vaporize the squad. How many enemies was that? Had the Beans stolen more guns? No—Deer Ryan felt a lurch in his stomach. How would they get the guns from the Deer? It could only be…
Pedeer. The Gun Vendor trotted into the room, armed with eight guns welded to his body. He aimed them around the room.
“Hello, my name is Pedeer. I sell guns. Isn’t this fun? Now I’m going to kill you all.”
He spoke, in a sing-song voice, dreamily looking around. Mideer raised her gun. She fired, once, vaporizing one of the guns Pedeer was aiming. The remaining seven turned her into ash.
“Pedeer! What are you doing?”
“Killing you all for my love! Now, die!”
Deer Ryan, Brodeer, and Lily dove behind the pews and altar, exchanging fire with Pedeer. The crazed Vendor stood in the chaos, firing and singing, not even bothering to dodge. Nor did he need to.
This was how it ended. Pedeer staggered, bleeding from half a dozen near-mortal wounds. Deer Ryan stared at the pooling blood from his lower torso.
His lower legs were gone. Brodeer? Brodeer was dead.
Lily had been shot three times in the stomach. She was soon dead too. Pedeer was laughing.
“I did it! Did you see that? I did it.”
“I did indeed. Well done, lover boy.”
The dying Deer and Witch looked up as a ginormous Witch in a hat swept into the room, blowing Pedeer a kiss. The imposing, voluptuous, Scarrella de Ville, smiled as Pedeer smiled aimlessly.
“I did it all for you.”
Lily shouted. It was her! The Witch who had taken this chance to rid the world of two Witches! Scarrella winked at her.
“Noted, my dear. Two Witches in one day? And the famous Deer Ryan and Brodeer? I’m popping off! Or rather, we are. Isn’t that so, Pedeer?”
He managed. The Deer Vendor looked at Deer Ryan, almost apologetically.
“I had to do it. For her.”
He leveled his guns at Deer Ryan. So. This was how it ended. The General had some small comfort in the knowledge that Lily would be going with him.
And yet—if this was the end—he turned, feeling each movement drain him further. He would soon be dead; the blood was oozing from his shattered torso. He clung to life despite that.
“Wait. Before I die—I have to know. Lily.”
She stared at the holes in her stomach. A calm seemed to descend over the ruined room, and the gloating Scarrella was even inclined to listen.
“Lily—I have to ask. How—how—how did you even become a Witch? You didn’t have magical powers. How did you turn me into a Deer?”
The question that had haunted Deer Ryan since the end of the world burst out of him. He couldn’t die until he knew. He knew what had come after, her terrible betrayal of killing and eating his children. But how had it started? Lily had not been the Witch before the apocalypse.
It seemed even Scarrella wanted to know. She leaned forwards, smiling, and Lily looked up at the ceiling.
“You really want to know how it all happened, Ryan?”
She had saved him as he lay, dying of starvation. She had slain all the zombies. But how? Lily looked at him, and nodded, once. Soaked in blood, drenched in the gore of Wendeer and the others, she still reached out and found a fallen object, for the after party.
The electronic piano from her room. It still had power, somehow. She began to play, her fingers leaving bloody prints on the keys.
For answer, she sang a song. A song he knew so well—or—thought he did.
“If there was a zombie apocalypse, I’d let my dog eat me.
They’d start with the thighs, where the fatty part lies.
My flesh would taste okay, my dog would eat the pain away;
Cause the whole world was dying, and I was tired of surviving.”
“Lily, that’s not—”
Deer Ryan broke off. Wait. Something was different. The song lyrics…had changed. Lily played on, bleeding out. Singing.
“In the zombie apocalypse, I let my dog eat me
There were zombies full of lead
And my friends were all dead
But at least she’d be healthy.”
Tears began to run amid the blood. Her face was growing paler. She leaned on the keyboard, the sound and her voice fading. She looked at Deer Ryan and he understood, even as she sang the last part, crying.
“During the zombie apocalypse, my dog did not eat me
My friends were all dead and the world was dying
I was tired of surviving.
But my dog did not eat me. Temmie…”
Her hands left the piano and she fell. Deer Ryan lay there, panting. It all became clear.
The last act of Lily, the Human. The dog who refused to eat his owner to survive.
And then…his face wrinkled up.
“Wait, that didn’t explain anything.”
Lily looked up from dying in her own blood.
“My dog didn’t eat me.”
“I understood that.”
She rolled her eyes.
“Well, then I gained magical powers and became a kickass witch.”
Scarrella and Deer Ryan hesitated.
“But what about the magical powers?”
“I dunno. Shit, I’m dying. I don’t know how I got my powers! The important part was Temmie! I just got my magic one day! Then—boom! I saved Ryan from dying of starvation by turning him into a deer so he could eat grass. Okay?”
Lily shouted at them. Deer Ryan looked at her. He heard a strangled voice.
Scarrella de Ville. The Witch looked poleaxed, purely shocked.
“Wait a second. You didn’t get your magic powers by sacrificing thousands of people? There’s no way.”
“No. What’s wrong with you?”
Lily stared at Scarrella. Pedeer looked at his love, blinking.
“You didn’t do that, dear. Did you…?”
“Yes. And I killed every Witch to steal their magical powers. How come you got your magic for free?”
“I’m super lucky. I dunno.”
Lily stared at Scarrella. Deer Ryan looked at Pedeer. The Vendor looked confused. Uncertainly, he looked at Scarrella.
“But you’re not going to kill anyone else after this, are you, my love? We’re going to be happy now.”
“Happy? With you? Oho. Ohohohoho. I’m afraid not, Pedeer.”
Scarrella smiled at him. He looked confused—then the Witch drew something out of her dress. It was…a broken spoon. All twisted up. Same with the fork, the broken cup—she tossed the plate to the ground last.
“WendyPlate! Forkdin! SpoonLily! CupRyan! No! How could you?”
Pedeer fell to his knees. Scarrella de Villa watched as he scrambled for his dead friends.
“There can only be one winner. I’m going for the dove.”
She pulled a gun out of her dress and shot Pedeer through the head. The Vendor died, slumping over his friends. Scarrella turned.
“And now, I’m—”
Deer Ryan rolled over, grabbed the gun, and fired. Scarrella laughed as she dodged, aiming at him; the second bolt hit him in the chest, and he felt the darkness closing in. Scarrella aimed at Lily—then the gun fell from her suddenly limp hands. She stared. A bloody stain travelled across her dress.
“H-huh? That killed me?”
Those were her last words as she collapsed. Lily laughed as the morgue of a wedding hall grew silent. She began dragging herself back to her keyboard. Along the way, in the fading twilight, as the world grew fuzzy around her, she found someone lying there.
Deer Ryan. He and Lily looked at each other. Without a word, Lily began to play.
Blood dripped from their wounds, mingling, running…slowing. As the last of Deer and Beans died on One Tree Hill, and the Witch and Deer who had begun it all faded away, they wrote one last letter.
One last song.
I’ve something to tell you
The world is dyin’
And I am too.
(So am I)
I’m tired of lyin’
I killed your children and ate their meat
Not because I was hungry
The two looked at each other. The Witch looked at him.
“My dog did not eat me
So I had to feed it meat
He was so hungry
She finished playing. Her hands fell back, unable to move any longer. She and Ryan lay there.
“So that’s it. I guess that’s why, Ryan. Then I was alone since dogs don’t live as long as Deer-people. But he stayed alive longer. So, thanks.”
So that was why. Not just for her. Deer Ryan’s lips moved weakly as he formulated a response.
“…That was fucked up, Lily.”
“Sorry. I guess we’re both dying now, anyways.”
He considered that. Eventually, Deer Ryan nodded wearily. He put head back, and closed his eyes. For the first time since he had gotten that letter, he relaxed.
“I guess…that’s true.”
He waited for a response after that. But Lily never said anything again. Deer Ryan didn’t either.
The Witch’s castle slowly collapsed on One Tree Hill, and Deer and Bean looked at the destruction. Of the guns, the Witches, the Deer, nothing remained.
Nothing, except a single letter than flew, carried by the wind, into the distance. It began with a confession, never sent.
Author’s Notes: When I began this project, I was drunk. I had this vision of the ending, based on the Twitch VOD and the song about the zombie apocalypse that turned into an actually cohesive ending. You see, the drama never had an ending and I hate that kind of thing.
I wrote the first part drunk. But I wrote the rest, all 13,000 words of it, nearly, because…I have to finish what I started. Even drunk silliness.
This is not a good story, in concept…well, maybe in concept, but certainly not my execution. Nevertheless, it’s done. Thank you for reading this? No, don’t thank me. Don’t thank yourself either.
Let’s all be ashamed of what happened. But we’re here. This happened.
The end. Thanks,