Chapter 5, Part 1
The day before the first Hootenanny came and went with little excitement. The decorations went up after much debate, the catering was arranged around a spooky theme, and by the end of the day Prince Gumball had come up with his own costume, finding all the necessary accessories to put it all together. As the night drew on, Gumball watched his window long into the night, waiting for Marshall to show up despite his statement to keep away for the night. But the vampire held true to his word and didn't appear. Disappointed, the prince finally found a stopping point in his novel and blew out the candle on his nightstand, taking advantage of the time to get a decent night's rest.
Over across the land, the undead king was still awake, rummaging through his clothes and muddling over what he was possibly going to wear. Everything in his being told him to take his usual route: scare the ever-living poop out of everyone. He just loved seeing the horrified faces of the candy-staff that cowered at his transformations, often getting compliments after the initial shock. But this time
this time was different.
Gumball had invited him. He wasn't just crashing another party, he was attending one. It was as if the slate had been wiped clean, and a new precedent was being set. The pressure was on to impress, so he struggled to veer from his ghoulish habits. He had found a few different articles from his closet he could throw together, deeming them actually formal and presentable at a royal affair. Then remembering the party's theme, he had debated all day on which slasher he should go as, but as his interest in the idea waned, Marshall Lee had collapsed on his couch and flung the blood stained T-shirt he had in his hand into the air.
Maybe he was over-thinking it. Maybe instead of being overly scary like everyone else
With a rush, he sat up and hopped back into his mess, rooting around the piles of cloth for something small and hard. He cursed at its absence and threw himself into the almost empty closet. He levitated over the top shelf finally spotting what he'd been searching for amongst a thick layer of dust. Blowing away the film and reaching far into the back his hand enclosed around what he had been hunting for. Pulling it out and dusting it with the back of his hand, the vampire king grinned wickedly.
The day of the festivities, evening fell softly, like a fresh layer of snow in early winter. One by one, the guests trickled in, each dressed in costumes both elegant and horrifying. There were ghoulish physicians and feral beasts, mummies and werewolves, and all manner of gruesome creatures. Peppermint Maid in the guise of a witch stood at the regal gate, greeting each new arrival and directing them towards the refreshments and entertainment. The dining room was laid out with more varieties of foods than anyone could hope to sample in one night while, in the great hall, a smooth, easy jazz band played a cool melody. In all directions, guests held glasses of punch and wine, chatting with rarely-seen friends under faux cobwebs and red paper lanterns.
Mixing in with the entering crowd, the two adventurers made their way towards the main floor where they were sure to find their host. Cake was dressed in her a collared shirt and skirt, her fur brushed just so. A full gorilla suit-wearing Fionna walked beside her as they made their way in, finding Lord Monochromicorn instantly, his body arched above the crowd. The feline hurried over to her boyfriend, pawing him gently.
"Hey, Sugar. Nice costume." The stead winked and took a bow with his captain's hat and jacket. The pair had decided to dress as the main characters from the most well-known thriller of the land, "Heat Signature." She giggled and gave him a kiss on the snout. "Seen GumGum around?"
The black unicorn nodded and motioned towards the thick of the mob, and, sure enough, in the middle stood a very happy looking prince.
Gumball chuckled, listening intently as Mandy the piñata recounted a rather humorous story of her last encounter with a hungry blackbird. The royal teen wore a long, white lab coat and white rubber gloves, his head was adorned with a pair of rather bulky old laser-safety goggles. A furry hand grasped his shoulder firmly and the pink young man whirled around, nearly leaping out of his skin when the disguised adventuress roared at him. To avoid giving Gumball a heart attack, Fionna removed her mask, tucking the fake gorilla head underneath her arm and laughing at the confused expression on his face.
"My goodness, Fionna!" he blurted "Don't startle me like that! You scared me half to death!"
"Sorry, dude," the blonde laughed, brushing her bangs out of her face. Due to the large mask, she had left her normal bunny hat at home, instead wrapping up her long hair in a messy ponytail. "I figured you wouldn't be freaked out by anything after hanging out with Marshall Lee so much." The girl looked all around, even above and below the other partygoers. "Hey, where is he anyway? Didn't you invite him?"
"Yeah," he nodded, looking about to make certain he hadn't missed the vampire's entrance, "I'm sure he's not here yet
Planning on being fashionably late, I'd presume." Turning back to his good friend, the prince smiled and shrugged and nodded. "Nice costume by the way, Fii. Handmade?"
. Let's go with that," she muttered. With the last of the guest filling in, the grand doors closed, a loud thump ringing out through the room that faded quickly with the noise of the band. The prince sighed and looked around, wondering if his normally uninvited guest was just going to sneak in as usual. He left it alone, throwing himself back into the festivities of his hootenanny.
An hour passed, and the party was into full swing. Several people had tried to guess his costume, all wrong, and it became a game for the bubblegum youth. But after the midnight hour rang, almost in its echo, the clank of the door knockers pounded, alerting them all of a late arrival. Peppermint Maid strolled over to the door, pulling it open and gasping at the visitor.
"Gah! You scared me! D-do you have-? W-where you
The masked guest smiled, pulling a glittering invitation.
The costumed maid sighed and stepped back, pulling the door open wider.
"Very well." She cupped her hands. "Attention, guests: His Royal Spookiness, King Marshall Lee, has arrived."
At this, Gumball looked over his shoulder to be sure he'd heard correctly before excusing himself from a rather drawn-out conversation with Ms. Cinnamon Bun. He couldn't help but smile in spite of being a little annoyed with Marshall's tardiness; however, all in all, he was more than glad the night-walker had made it.
Entering the palace, the thousand year old teen readjusted the collar of his grey jacket, the stone colored cloth looking quite sharp over his black silk shirt. With his simple, casual-formal attire, one would think he wasn't even donning a costume, but looking to his face, covered by a jagged domino mask, the simplistic nature of his outfit could be overlooked. The top half of his face was covered by a gothic, angular stone, jutting out into the face of a gruesome gargoyle, his normal grin peeking out from below the mask.
He strolled into the party, greeting all who welcomed him as he passed on his way to the host.
A grin sneaking onto his face, Gumball spread his arms in a welcoming gesture as the king of the night approached. A few of the guests of lesser status moved out of Marshall's way towards the candy prince.
"I was beginning to wonder whether you were going to show up at all," The pink youth remarked as the vampire came within hearing range. "I'm not complaining. A late arrival is better than none at all."
"Sorry, I didn't want to ruin my suit by traveling too fast." He brushed off his arm and moved it to be straight against his frame. Compared to the other elaborate outfits and costumes, Marshall's looked more like the average prom-coming suit than anything else. "Nice Dr. Terrible costume, by the way."
Suddenly, a waterfall of confetti dumped over the simply dressed teen, and the crowd exploded in cheers and applause. Marshall puffed at his face, scattering the bits from his mask and nose.
Prince Gumball smirked and helped sweep the colorful specks from his guest's shoulder.
"Well, no one could figure out what I was, so we kind of made it a game."
"Really? How did no one get that?" Marshall smirked and shook the rest of the confetti from his body. "Your impression of him is uncanny."
"I suppose not many people are familiar with the movie
It is a very old film." Adjusting the goggles resting in his hair, the prince smiled, glad that at least somebody had finally guessed his costume correctly. "Perhaps I'll have to make Fionna show it at her movie-night sometime" he mused.
Marshall Lee nodded and waved to another guest that greeted him from afar. The night progressed with a game or two amongst the guests, the prince and king, for the most part, hanging back. When the music lulled into a romantic setting, the couples pairing off on the dance floor, Marshall stuck out his tongue and snuck up the stairs, remembering a little balcony on the second floor.
Matching the vampire's sentiment in wanting to escape the couples' ballad, Gumball followed, if only to keep from looking strange standing on the sidelines while others danced in pairs. He found Marshall perched precariously on the balcony's guardrail with his beloved, dark red ax-bass resting on one knee. Tweaking with the tuning heads, the undead young man fiddled around for a moment before he began plucking out a tune. The prince coughed to alert the vampire of his presence, and he ceased his plucking, looking up.
"Hey, PG, not a fan of the couples' music either?"
"Not a fan of standing to the side while everybody else dances in couples."
"I hear that," he murmured while plucking at his bass. He smiled at the strings and hummed a bit. Only after establishing his beat did he let a few lyrics slip out quietly.
"Roses are red and violets are blue,
"Mess with me and I'll kill you
"Marshall I don't think-" the prince tried to interject before more lines cut him off.
"I'll cut your neck and drink up your blood,
"And drag your guts through thistles and mud
"Marshall Lee!" Gumball snapped, stopping the singer dead and killing his tune.
"What?" the undead growled, placing his fingers over the strings to silence them. "What's with you?"
appreciate it if you put up your bass," the prince said carefully, doing his best to sound diplomatic and inoffensive, "just for tonight. I mean this is a formal event
" He looked over his shoulder to make sure that they were both still alone. "And your songs are
"What? Too freaky for you? I'll have you know I've played for kids parties in other kingdoms, your highness. Why are you so freaked out by it?" He plucked a scale slowly. "It's not like I'm actually gonna do that to you
At least, not tonight." He smiled jokingly.
The prince gave Marshall a fearful look, shuddering at the thought.
"Well, I'm sorry, but I just don't have a taste for the macabre. It's nothing against you
I mean, I know it's all in good, spooky fun, but it just
Marshall looked away, a little put off by the squeamish nature of his new friend, but he remembered a few days before: Fionna had told him the prince's parents had died. Marshall Lee knew that hurt all too well, and even he had a struggle coming to terms with the deaths of those he'd become close to in all his years, but he'd had something the prince hadn't yet: time.
"Alright, Bubba. I won't sing."
The awkward prince brightened a little and let a ghost of a smile find its way to his lips.
"Thanks Marshall. I-"
"Your majesty, your presence is being requested onstage." Peppermint Maid stood in the doorway to the balcony, just peeking around the door nervously, wary of the vampire's presence on the other side. Gumball turned and acknowledged her, curious as to what the partygoers could want with him onstage.
"Alright, I'll be there in a moment."
"A-actually, my prince," she stuttered, bringing her attention to the other male, "I was speaking to Mr. Lee. Everyone has requested a performance."
Marshall sighed, hating the rotten luck of just having promised not to.
"Tell them not tonight, missy."
Gumball felt suddenly rather guilty, looking away for a moment before stepping back to lean against the rail around the balcony.
"You know what? If you want to, you go sing. Forget what I said." He looked up at the other young man with eyes that showed a mixture of apology and discomfort; like he was regretting telling the other not to sing, but would still prefer it if he didn't.
The vampire looked at his bass, but then slung it to his back. Wordlessly, he passed by the maid, careful not to bump her or disturb anything else as he made his way back to the party. He floated directly to the center stage where the band had cleared back to make room, his fans cheering as he took the microphone. He waited until the bubblegum host and his right hand made their way back down before speaking, smiling at Prince Gumball.
"What's up, my party creatures?" he laughed, rousing a roar from the audience. "So, I heard you wanted to hear a little haunted music tonight." He scanned the crowd and found Fionna and Cake, both hollering with the rest at the hopes of a concert from the vampire. "Alright, calm down. Now I know that you'd like a little song
but I told a good friend I wouldn't. So sorry, guys, maybe next time."
The crowd instantly deflated and a couple patrons protested including one adventuress dressed as a gorilla. To the eyes of a host, so many faces full of disappointment were horrifying, and Gumball nearly panicked as Marshall waved the crowd away and began to make his way down from the stage. The prince hissed from the sidelines and motioned frantically for him to get back to the microphone, his demeanor having taken a sudden pitch from squeamish to desperate.
Marshall frowned and tried to mouth out an argument with the prince, but ultimately, Gumball convinced the vampire to remain and play for their hungry audience. Sighing, Marshall Lee took his axe down from his back, plucking a few cords and nodding to the band to follow along.
"Well, sounds like I might squeeze in a song or two, everyone. So here's my first
It's a song about a watchmaker." Looking down the shaft of his guitar, he grinned and made a beat, letting the strings and horn behind him create the mood.
"Poor Mr. Mcarthy, what have you done?
"You've gone and killed your very own son.
"How could you do this, they asked, what will you do?
"So he took his own pistol and shot himself too
As the lyrics began to sink in, Gumball retreated, hoping to hide in the throng and keep from showing his discomfort. All in all, he was glad the music was pleasing to his guests; he'd never be able to handle one of his parties being a flop because of a lack of entertainment. At the same time, however, he wished silently that the vampire's music wasn't quite so grim. Making his way through the packed grand hall, the prince caught sight of Fionna
well, he caught sight of a gorilla and could only conclude that it was the adventuress in disguise.
"Hey, Fionna. How's the party?"
The hairy girl shook her fists in time with the beat, swaying side-to-side and occasionally bumped into Cake's gyrating hips.
"It's great! Everything's super fun, especially with a Marshall Lee song. You having fun?"
"Well, yeah, I suppose," he looked nervously up at the stage; he had little confidence in the morbid song's ability to keep the audience entertained, and yet the partygoers seemed thrilled to be hearing something so taboo. "It's tough being a host, especially when I don't know what people will enjoy most when it comes to entertainment."
"What do you mean?" Fionna asked, pausing her gorilla-dance to turn to her friend and give him her full attention.
"It's impossible to tell what people will be into next
what makes Marshall's songs so popular? They give me the creeps!"
Even amongst the other dancers, Fionna rubbed her chin with her thick, gloved hands.
"Well, I like it because it sounds cool. But... I think it's because it's about creepy stuff, but the way he sings isn't scary. Like he could be a screamo and make it sound freaky, but doesn't. He's all comfortable with dark stuff, and that kinda makes everyone else feel ok about it too. Did that help?"
"I guess." With though written on his brow, the prince turned to look back up at the stage, taking a moment to listen to the words and the soft music together.
"Now go to the graveyard, up on the hill,
"When everything's quiet and the cold skies are still,
"And in whispering willows where haunted souls lurk,
"You might hear the ticking of McCarthy's clockwork."
There was something completely unnerving about the words, and the soft melody sent chills up Gumball's spine, but the pink boy began to understand the purpose behind the tune. Marshall wasn't singing a grotesque story from his own twisted past, but rather telling a kind of ghost-story with a melody and rhyme. In a sense, his music was meant to thrill the same way a chilling legends did when told around a campfire.
Bringing his song to a close, he picked out his last notes and bowed along with the band, letting the applause of the crowd envelope them. He lifted his feet from the ground to exit the spotlight, but a call for an encore kept him in place.
"Alright, one more. This time we're going to try something
different. I hope you like it." Working his scale down, the band picked up again, keeping with the light tempo and slightly jazzy rhythm. But as he parted his lips and began to sing again, the room was shocked for an instant with the words, not sure of what to make of them.
"You smile, and the moon shines on me;
"All the while, perched under the gum tree.
"And still you wouldn't notice
"If your pocket held the key.
Gumball blinked in surprise and glanced back at Fionna who was equally astonished; was Marshall singing a ballad? Well a ballad wasn't so out of the ordinary, but the prince could hardly believe his ears. The vampire wasn't just singing a soft, slow melody, but the lyrics seemed almost romantic.
"Watching you through one-way glass,
"Hoping to force the time to pass.
"You can't see your shadow from the other side,
"For now I'll bite my tongue, safely to abide.
"And still you wouldn't notice
"If I was really on your side."
He hummed through a few more note, letting another measure of instrument play through, and with his last notes he repeated the last of the lyrics, letting it settle and haunt over the room as the song drew to a close. There was a moment of silence as the audience decided their take on the new style, but ultimately they received it well and grew into a roar of applause.
The prince couldn't help but admit that he appreciated the unexpected change in theme, but at the same time it was strange to hear Marshall even speaking of romance, let alone singing of it. He'd always assumed that the thousand-year-old vampire had outlived any tender emotion that might have existed in his heart. Perhaps he'd been too quick to think that the blue-skinned young man should be simply incapable of such internal processes simply because he wasn't quite alive or dead.
Before he was made to do a third performance, Marshall Lee flew off the stage past the throng of fans to his friends, landing before them with his bass safely slung on his back.
"Ok, how was that? I figured I'd at least try something a little different." His eyes lingered more towards his candy friend, but not to raise curiosity he glanced over to Fionna as well.
"That was totally rhombus, dude!" Fionna exclaimed, waving her furry gloves with excitement, "Your songs are so lumpin' math, like I don't even know!" Marshall chuckled at the praise from his female friend and turned to the soft-spoken prince, looking for any judgment.
"So what did you think, PG?" the vampire raised an eyebrow inquisitively at the other male.
"I really enjoyed that second song. I didn't know you had anything so decent in you." When Marshall gave him an offended look, the prince giggled and elbowed the undead gently in the rips. "Kidding, dude. I'm just really surprised that you could sing something that wasn't about tearing people's guts out." The pink teen gave Marshall a joking smile and nodded his approval.
The eldest sighed, taking the answer as a sort for victory. He turned to the gorilla girl and smirked.
"You're starting to sound like LSP, girl." The trio laughed and continued their night, letting the original band take over the entertainment. Several hours passed, and little by little small groups and couples left, thanking their host for a wonderful time. Prince Gumball always excused himself to properly see his guests off, but as the late hour came, the last guests were the king and two adventurers, keeping the pink royalty company. But with a long yawn from Fionna, the three visitors decided to call it a night.
As Gumball showed his guests to the palace doors, he bid them each a kind farewell, embracing Fionna and giving Marshall a friendly clap on the shoulder while Lord Monochromicorn nuzzled his girlfriend's cheek. Reluctantly, Cake grew to ride-able size, allowing her human charge to clamber onto her back and cling to her shoulders before the two adventuresses took their leave through the kingdom's sturdy gate. Marshall lingered until the two females were out of sight as if watching to be sure they got safely on their way while waiting for his own personal goodbye.
"So I'd say your little hootenanny was a success, Gumball, old boy," Marshall grinned, kicking his feet out and riding the air on his back. "This gonna be an annual thing?"
"Biannual," the prince stated, simply, "so there'll be another in six months, give or take. I try to move the dates around each time so the parties aren't seasonally specific." The prince nodded contentedly, clearly glad that his party had been so successful, but also glad that his hootenanny had earned Marshall Lee's approval. "I'm really glad you came; the guests really liked your music, so I think that was the little touch that took it over the edge." Gumball paused and gave the other boy a look of sincere gratitude. "Thanks, Marshall."
"Hey, no problem. I don't mind playing if you don't. Can't rightly crash a party I was invited to. But, hey, I wanted to ask you something." He lowered himself down to just barely hover over the ground, scratching the back of his neck. "So, I know that Fifi is feeling better and all
but I was just wondering if you would still wanna hang out every once in a while."
"Heck yes!" the prince replied with a grin, putting up his knuckles for a fist-bump which Marshall accepted after a moment of looking at the raised fist inquisitively. "I mean, what do you expect? You think that now because Fionna's recovered I'm gonna stop being friends with you? Come on, Marshall, I thought knew me at least a little better than that." Gumball folded his arms across his chest.
Pleasantly surprised, the vampire smiled warmly, taking off his mask and holding it in his hands. He flipped it over in his hands and chuckled lightly to it, lost in a thought.
I had you all wrong, Gumball." He looked back up, a mulled joy in his eyes that seemed almost out of place from his normal aloof demeanor. "I know better now. Goodnight, Your Majesty." Before anything else was said, the night's king leaned forward and pressed his lips to the ungoggled section of the prince's forehead. As his peck ended, Marshall Lee the vampire king stood back and winked, letting his body take flight and zipped off into the growing morning.
The prince looked up and crossed his eyes, wishing he could see his forehead, his brow furrowing a moment. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand to make sure there wasn't any mark left, his lips pursing as the royal teen thought about what he'd just experienced. He pondered the peck a moment; surely it wasn't what it looked like on the surface, it had to be some strange Vampire custom. After all, in other cultures, such things were respectful and traditional, such as the liger-people of the south-western most province of Aaa; their greetings and goodbyes ranging from nose-rubbing to cheek-kissing. Who knows how long the vampires have been around anyway? It was said that their people had walked the earth even before the great mushroom war, plenty of time for many interesting customs to evolve.
"Your Majesty, the food has been taken care of and the staff has begun the cleanup," a tiny voice came from behind him. He turned to see Peppermint Maid with a tray and glass of water sat upon it. "It's very late, Prince Gumball. Maybe you should head off to bed. It won't be long now 'til we have the hall spick and span."
Turning all the way to face his most trusted advisor, the prince smiled and placed a hand on the meek candy-woman's shoulder.
"Come on, I'll help clean up. Then we'll have it all done even quicker."
"Oh, but, Your Majesty, cleaning is no job for a prince-"
"I hope you don't just think of me as your prince," Gumball said, leading the way back towards the palace, "I hope you and the rest of the Candy Kingdom think of me as a friend. Come on, Peppermint Maid. Let's get to helping."
Such a statement was rare if unheard of from a member of the royal candy family. Not to the effect that they weren't seen as friendly royals, but such a casual thing wasn't normally stated.
"W-well, of course, Your Majesty. Alright, let's get t-to work!" With a renewed vigor, the minty servant took away the glass and pointed out the direction of his best possible use, and under an hour later the Candy Kingdom's grand hall was clean, as if no party as ever taken place.
Thanking his staff for all their help, Gumball finally retired to his bedchamber, having neither the strength nor the clarity of mind to do anything but prepare for bed and sleep promptly. He went to sleep silently, naming all the people he'd have to visit tomorrow to personally thank for their attendance. He'd have to thank the Duchess of Nuts for the lovely quiche she'd brought, and he'd have to thank Lumpy Space Prince and his parents for the pies they had brought. He'd surely have to make the journey to Goblin Country to thank Rob Goblin and his band for playing
And for that matter, he'd have to stop by Marshall's place and thank him again for playing. Indeed, tomorrow was going to be a long day.