The Ender Dragon, infected with Herobrine’s virus, flew through The End, his eyes blazing bright white with hatred.
“I will take my revenge on you, Gameknight999,” the dragon grumbled to himself as he banked in a huge arc.
Flapping his mighty wings, Herobrine flew toward a tall obsidian tower. A shining ender crystal bobbed about atop the dark purple pillar, a wreath of flames surrounding the intricately carved purple cube. As he neared, a shaft of light lanced out from the crystal and hit the dragon, replenishing his health points (HP) and filling him with energy. Herobrine revealed a vile, toothy grin as he felt himself grow stronger.
Turning, he flew over the End Stone that floated below him, the island of pale yellow blocks completely surrounded by the endless darkness of the void. This was his domain now, and he should have been thrilled to be free of the pig body he’d been trapped in. But instead, being restricted to The End made him feel trapped . . . and furious.
“I hate being here in The End!” Herobrine shouted at the darkness. “I have to escape and make my enemies pay for this.”
Looking down, he could see a large collection of endermen clustered together, their black bodies standing out against the insipid yellow End Stone. Suddenly, a new enderman appeared, materializing in a cloud of purple teleportation particles. As the lavender mist cleared, Herobrine recognized the new enderman as different from the rest—colored a dark, dark red, like the color of dried blood. It was his general, Feyd, the king of the endermen.
Swooping down, Herobrine approached the group. Extending his massive wings to slow his descent, the enormous dragon settled gracefully to the ground right in front of the collection of creatures. The endermen all bowed their heads to him immediately, each of them demonstrating the proper respect for the Maker. They all knew that those who had failed to revere him in the past didn’t live to make the same mistake twice.
“Maker, what are your commands?” Feyd asked as he stepped forward.
“What did you learn about my enemy, Gameknight999?” Herobrine demanded, his eyes glowing bright white.
“My endermen could not find him, but we are still looking,” Feyd replied nervously, afraid to have only bad news for his master.
“I must have him!” Herobrine shouted, his massive teeth mashing together like a mighty vise as he snapped his lethal mouth shut. “He must be found and punished for trapping me in this wasteland. There is nothing to destroy here and it is driving me crazy!”
“I understand,” Feyd said carefully, taking a step back.
“The End is like a prison to me,” the dragon explained. “I can feel the walls of the void pressing in on me. I cannot stand another minute in this place. I must be free.”
Herobrine’s eyes blazed even brighter as his rage intensified to dangerous levels.
The endermen around him stepped back even farther, all well aware that it was unsafe to be so close when their maker’s eyes grew this intense.
Closing his eyes, Herobrine boiled with anger and hatred.
I have to get out of here somehow. NOW! he thought.
When he was in a normal body, the evil shadow-crafter could teleport anywhere his mind could conceive, and he would have been easily able to leave The End. But in this dragon body, many of his crafting abilities seemed absent . . . or maybe they were just placed somewhere else in his mind.
Concentrating with all his might, Herobrine imagined his body surrounded by purple teleportation particles. With the very fabric of his soul, he willed this to be, searching the crevasses of his mind for the powers he needed.
A tingling spread across his body as though a million tiny little bugs were crawling over his skin.
He ignored the sensation.
Diving even deeper into his mind, Herobrine probed for those lost skills, all the while imagining the field of teleportation particles getting larger and larger. He could sense familiar powers in his mind: the power to change lines of code in other creatures; the ability to hear the music of Minecraft created by that old hag, the Oracle; the ability to change his form when he absorbed another’s XP after he’d destroyed them . . .
The tingling grew stronger, now changing from tiny little insects to a million pointed needles, all of them poking into every inch of his skin.
Yes, he could feel many powers, but the one he sought still lay hidden, lost in the recesses of his evil mind. He had to find it! Diving even deeper into his psyche, he probed the darkness of his soul, looking for what he desperately needed: a way out of The End.
The piercing needles turned from an annoyance to genuine pain, and his body felt like it was wrapped in flames. At the same time, Herobrine became dizzy, his mind reeling as though he were wavering back and forth in all directions at once. Most creatures would have felt some kind of fear at this, but Herobrine did not understand what fear was. All he knew was anger and determination.
Suddenly, the dragon had the sensation of being in two places at the same time. It felt like his mind had been severed in half, one part remaining in The End and the other suddenly somewhere else. Herobrine could hear Feyd screeching something, but he did not pay attention to his general; he did not want to be distracted.
Focusing his attention on his inner mind, he suddenly came across something familiar, a power that felt immediately comforting, like an old friend—he’d found it! But just before he could use this power, he was startled by the sound of a cow mooing directly in his face. Opening his eyes, Herobrine found the blocky bovine staring at him only a few blocks away. The dragon lifted his dark head quickly and glanced around at his surroundings, his motion scaring away the cow.
Gasping in shock, Herobrine found himself on a grassy, flower-covered plain. Bright yellow sunflowers surrounded the dragon, their brilliant faces standing out in stark contrast to the lush grass that stretched out into the distance. All around him were tiny, sparkling purple and yellow dots, dancing like an enchanted mist. He immediately recognized them as his teleportation particles and shadow-crafting powers.
A rich birch forest biome butted up against the landscape of sunflowers. The woodland extended out, looking like a gigantic ocean of white-barked trees. Beyond the forest, he could make out some kind of rocky mountain, the tall peaks barely showing through the haze of Minecraft.
Suddenly, a presence appeared before him: Feyd, an eerie smile on the dark face.
“The Maker did it!” the enderman screeched. “You have again done what was thought to be impossible. You teleported out of The End.”
Herobrine looked at the enderman, then smiled, realizing what Feyd had said was true. Flapping his mighty wings, the dragon lifted into the air and soared high into the deep blue sky. Laughing with pure joy at being out of his dark prison, Herobrine glided across the landscape, looking for something to destroy. Streaking down to the ground, he found the cow that had mooed at him when he’d first materialized. With his razor-sharp claws extended, Herobrine attacked the cow, his talons rending the HP from the beast. The animal flashed red then disappeared, gone.
Herobrine laughed and flew back toward his general. Now there were more endermen gathering on the grassy plain, their dark bodies like shadowy silhouettes. Settling to the ground before his followers, Herobrine looked at Feyd and smiled maliciously, his white teeth shining bright in the sunlight.
“Friends, it is time to take our revenge on the NPCs of the Overworld,” Herobrine snarled, his tail whipping about excitedly, tearing up sunflowers with every twitch. “We will eradicate their infestation and destroy every last one of them!”
The endermen screeched with excitement.
“But Maker,” Feyd said, cautiously stepping out of reach. “What of the User-that-is-not-a-user?”
Herobrine growled at the sound of his enemy’s name. He stared at Feyd, his eyes glowing bright. “I will have a little surprise for the User-that-is-not-a-user. He will not escape me again.” He then looked straight up at the golden square of the overhead sun and shouted into the very fabric of Minecraft: “I’M COMING FOR YOU GAMEKNIGHT999, AND I BRING WITH ME YOUR DOOM!”
Gameknight999 drew back an arrow and aimed at his target. His breathing was slow, his mind calm. He had to focus everything on this shot; he made ever-so-small adjustments to his aim and ignored everything around him. He had to make this shot—everything depended on it.
Stitcher had hit her target with each of her last three arrows. He had to match that. They’d been competing with each other and testing their archery skills, and it had finally come down to these last three arrows.
Once he had quieted his breathing a bit more, he could feel that he had the aim just right. He was about to release his arrow when he saw movement in the forest: something green and splattered with black spots was approaching Stitcher. The young NPC had her back to the forest as she watched Gameknight’s target, a pumpkin. It was probably nothing, he thought, and tried to focus once again on the orange striped fruit. But then the mottled intruder moved again through the forest and Gameknight could see that it was a creeper, and it was getting closer to Stitcher!
Adjusting his aim, he fired, then drew another arrow and fired again and again. His three missiles streaked silently through the air, brushing past square tree trunks and clusters of leaves until they reached their target. The first arrow made the creeper ignite, but the next two quickly disrupted the process and took the creature’s remaining HP. It disappeared with a faint pop!
He sighed with relief. Stitcher was safe, and she hadn’t even noticed the danger lurking behind her.
Moving to the pumpkin, Stitcher laughed aloud. She leaned down, pulled her three arrows out of her pumpkin, and then rubbed the smooth surface of Gameknight’s target.
“Looks like you missed all three—I win!” she squealed, jumping up and down, her flowing red curls bouncing like crimson springs.
“That’s not fair,” Gameknight complained. “There was a—”
“Blah . . . blah . . . blah,” mocked Stitcher. “You missed and I didn’t. Excuses won’t make the arrows hit the target. Admit it: I won and you lost.”
Since Stitcher was so happy, Gameknight decided not to spoil the mood and didn’t tell her about the creeper. Instead, he moved off into the woods, pretending to sulk. Once he’d located the place where the creeper had disappeared, he collected the glowing balls of XP and gunpowder.
“GAMEKNIGHT . . . WHERE ARE YOU?” a voice shouted through the trees.
Gameknight turned. His father, Monkeypants271, moved through the oak forest. He boasted a monkey’s face with big eyes and a wide nose. Fine brown fur ran across his forehead and cheeks, framing a tan oval encircling the eyes, nose, and mouth. This coloration gave him a simian appearance that seemed to make everyone that met him smile.
Or maybe it was his outfit? Superman . . . really?
For some reason, his father had chosen this skin for his character; a monkey dressed in a Superman outfit. A large “S” within a red triangle adorned his chest, a long red cape hung down his back. Blue tights and red boots completed the ensemble. Gameknight shook his head and wondered what his father was thinking when he chose that skin.
“We’re over here!” Gameknight shouted, waving his bow high over his head.
As his father approached, Gameknight could tell that he was in trouble by the angry look on the monkey’s face.
“I thought we were going to finish the castle!” Monkeypants complained.
“We are,” Gameknight replied a little sheepishly, “I just wanted to take a break and go out shooting with Stitcher. I was gonna come back soon.”
“That’s fine, but you left me with the unpleasant job of building the wall,” Monkeypants said. “We collected all that obsidian and now we need to finish the wall of your castle. You know how tedious that can be.”
“You could have gotten some of the villagers to help.”
“That’s not the point,” Monkeypants replied. “This was supposed to be something that we were doing together . . . and when the boring parts come, it seems that I’m the only one doing the building.”
“I’m sorry. I just wanted to take a little break,” Gameknight said, casting his gaze to the ground.
“Remember, we agreed to finish the wall, then take a break,” Monkeypants reminded his son. “We set a goal and said that we would achieve it before getting distracted by anything else.”
“I know . . . but I was getting bored with just placing obsidian blocks,” Gameknight whined, “and I wanted to do something else for a while.”
“Son, you said that you wanted to be treated like a big kid, like an adult. Part of being an adult is meeting your responsibilities and following through on your commitments. People will trust and respect you, but only if you do what you say and are reliable. So let me ask you: are you a man of your word? When Gameknight999 says he will do something, can others expect that he will follow through, or will they worry that he’ll decide to skip it because it isn’t fun?”
“Well . . . I . . . um . . .”
“As I’ve told you before, responsibility is a heavy cloak and requires broad shoulders to support its weight,” Monkeypants said. “Are your shoulders strong enough to bear this weight?”
Gameknight scowled as he looked to the ground.
What’s the big deal? Gameknight thought. I just took a little break. Why does he have to make it into a capital offense?
But he knew that he was wrong and kept his thoughts to himself.
His father had agreed to stay in Minecraft for just a little while longer. He had planned on leaving when they completed Gameknight’s castle. At first, Gameknight had been thrilled, but as with all building projects, he quickly became bored with the tedium of getting every detail correct. If they had been regular users simply playing the game, then he could have used hacks and cheats to build his castle faster, but they were not just playing the game—they were in the game, for real.
Having learned that Crafter, his best friend in Minecraft, was dying, Gameknight had used his father’s invention, the digitizer, to go into the game and play it so he could help his friend. He’d done this before, but this time was different. This time, his father had insisted on accompanying him.
Looking at his father now, Gameknight saw the bright letters floating like holograms over his monkey head, displaying his dad’s Minecraft name for all users and NPCs to see. It didn’t matter from which direction they were viewed, the letters always read, from left to right, M O N K E Y P A N T S 2 7 1. If he had been a regular user, then there would have been a narrow beam of light shining up from the player’s head, the server thread. The glowing white filaments connected the users to the server. But because Gameknight999 and Monkeypants271 had used his father’s digitizer, or Gateway of Light as the NPCs liked to call it, to enter the game, they had no server threads. They were users without the server thread that all other users had; they were both a User-that-is-not-a-user.
Just then, the music of Minecraft swelled and filled the air. But it wasn’t its usual harmonious tones, which normally gave Gameknight999 a sense of serenity and peace. No, there was a dissonant and strained sound to the lyrical notes, as though someone or something were in pain.
“Something’s happening!” Gameknight snapped as he notched another arrow to his bow.
Turning away from his father, the User-that-is-not-a-user scanned the forest, looking for any monsters. As far as he could tell, they were still alone.
“Gameknight, don’t turn away from me; we were talking,” his father complained.
Gameknight ignored Monkeypants and continued to scan their surroundings.
“Don’t you hear it?” Gameknight asked.
“Hear what?” his father replied.
“The music of Minecraft,” Gameknight answered. “There’s something wrong, and the Oracle is giving us a warning through the music.”
“Well, I don’t hear anything,” Monkeypants said.
“I don’t hear anything either,” Stitcher said, but she too had pulled out her bow again, an arrow notched to the string and drawn back, ready.
“We have to get back to the village,” Gameknight said.
“That’s what I was saying,” Monkeypants said. “We need to finish that wall and then—”
“I think we definitely need to finish that wall,” Gameknight said as he continued to peer into the forest. “But we might need the defenses of the castle sooner than we expected. Come on, we need to get the NPCs to finish the upgrades to the walls and defenses all across the village. I fear something terrible has happened in Minecraft and I hate not knowing what it is. We need to talk with Crafter as soon as possible.”
Gameknight took off running, wending his way through the forest, keeping his enchanted bow at the ready. Behind him, he could hear Monkeypants and Stitcher. One of them was saying something, but he wasn’t paying attention. He was listening to the music of Minecraft.
Oracle, what’s happening? he thought, hoping she would answer.
“I hear you, Oracle,” Gameknight said aloud to no one. “If you could tell me what’s wrong, it would help.”
Again, only the harsh music filled his ears.
“What’s going on?” Gameknight whispered, sprinting for the village that sat over the next rise.
I’m coming! he thought to the Oracle, his legs pumping with all his strength.
As he ran, he put away his bow and instead drew his old friend, his enchanted diamond sword. Gripping the hilt firmly, he worried about what he might find at his destination.