The beginning of the end goes like this:
They've moved on from Candyland, somewhere after Grian and Impulse of all people got into a fight about modifying the rules to make it more interesting. They'd had a debate about whether or not it was possible to play Diplomacy - on the one hand, it's entirely deterministic, so they would only have to memorize the board, not randomize anything. On the other hand, resolving turns in Diplomacy can get messy enough when there aren't arguments about whether or not the boardstate has even been remembered properly. Also, maybe it's just Mumbo, but a game that's actively about betraying alliances right now seems a bit... ill-planned?
They'd tried playing Mafia for a bit, but unfortunately it didn't work so well when only four of them could play at a time. Pearl tried to teach Pancake to play, if only because five players at least meant they could play two rounds. The dragon mostly used it as an excuse to chew on their hair. That seemed reasonable to Mumbo. If he were a dragon, he'd probably be chewing on people's hair too.
...what does that say about Mumbo, actually? Hm.
The point is: the beginning of the end starts like the beginning of the end did; arguably, the beginning of the end started however long ago it had been for them. After all, the five of them (and one dragon) have been floating through the void for quite some time. The beginning of the end could have very well been when Scar had pulled that lever. But, as far as things are concerned, the beginning of the end is something like:
Grian turns over one of the blue Uno cards they'd been using to try to play Connect Four with in his hands and looks at the others and his face is strange and his wings are curled around him and if Mumbo looks at him sideways, the entire emptiness that takes up Grian's space is twisted sideways, too.
"How long are we just going to do this?" he asks.
"What, lose Connect Four? Because I totally won that round," Pearl says.
"No!" says Grian. "I mean, no, I'm going to win at Connect Four one of these days. I mean - this! All of this!"
Impulse makes a quiet scoff against the back of his throat. Mumbo shifts uncomfortably. Oh dear.
"I don't know what you mean," Scar says nervously. "I mean, we can play something else while we wait to -"
"You know what I mean. Pretend this is all normal." He flips his hand and throws it up in the same motion that he stops bothering to really look like Grian. Mumbo doesn't look away, this time. He's almost used to it, for all he's looking at nothing.
"I mean, I don't think we've really done a good job at that," Pearl says.
"You," Grian says, and then stops. "No, I'm not going to - that's not the point! We're just sitting here playing Connect Four with Uno cards instead of -"
"We can't," Scar says quietly. "If we want any chance, we have to -"
"What, stay sitting ducks?"
Mumbo swallows. "I mean. They haven't really gotten close again," he says, gesturing to the horrors from beyond that really don't look so much horrifying as just like them, these days. "Given that, every time they have... well, um. So we don't have to worry about that."
"And what about us? We're just going to accept that? Not worry about it? Or, oh, I know. It'll be like my conversation with Pearl. We're just going to accept that we're those things, and we're drifting through the void forever, aren't we?"
Mumbo turns to look at Pearl, who is trying to gently extricate an Uno card from Pancake's mouth. She shrugs. "I mean, not particularly much of a choice, is there?" she says, and, ah. This is a standing debate, isn't it? Mumbo suddenly feels awfully, awfully like he's missed things, like - he doesn't want to have this argument. Maybe he can figure out how to repurpose the Uno cards into a Diplomacy board after all? He'll think about that, like how Candyland worked before, and like it's worked every time before.
"We could go looking," Impulse says.
"We shouldn't, since we're surviving here," Scar says. "We shouldn't make it harder to find us."
"What... no, no we're not doing this again," Scar says, and Mumbo sort of wants to cover his ears. The worst part is that this isn't the first time they've had this argument. Of course it isn't. There's only but so much to talk about. There's only but so much to do to distract themselves. Eventually, it always descends back to their arguments. They've normally been nice, Mumbo thinks distantly. Done them in smaller groups. But it's always just going to come back to this.
DIplomacy, Mumbo thinks. At least if they're arguing about alliances and betrayals and wars, they won't be arguing about this.
"I don't know whether to agree with you or hit you," Mumbo hears Grian say. "On the one hand, if we go looking, hey, at least we're going somewhere! On the other hand, Impulse, not particularly a fan of implying..."
"Oh. My bad. Sorry."
"He's probably not wrong," Pearl says.
"He is," Scar says, "and we aren't having this argument."
Mumbo throws out Diplomacy. He's not sure how to do the pieces. Also, the arguments won't be fun after all, he decides. He shakes. He wants... he wants.... he'll make... hah, maybe they can use the Uno cards to build base plans, actually? They haven't talked about those since the first few - weeks? Days? He's not sure. Time's passed strangely. When did they stop talking about their plans for next season, actually? When had they...
"Still, it's clear that if they are around, they've abandoned us," Impulse says, and Mumbo wants to do - do something. Shake him? Shake everyone? No, he's resolutely not paying attention, actually. What was his plan, actually? He'd been planning on - a vault, right? He'd wanted to be rich, and to build a vault, first, before anything else, because it had been too long since he'd built a proper vault door. That had been his plan. What had the others been planning? He can't remember. They'd all talked about it, but he can't...
"No one's abandoned anyone," Scar says, and he doesn't even sound angry, he just sounds sad.
"It doesn't matter! What matters is - we have to move forward! We have to do something!" Grian says.
"What?" Pearl says.
"I don't know! I don't care!"
Mumbo's thinking about vault doors, though.
"We just have to - we can't let this keep happening! We can't pretend this is normal! We can't! It's not normal to be monsters, it's not normal to - how long have we even been here?"
"Well, if we don't pretend it's at least a little normal," Impulse says, before sighing. "No, sorry, you have a point."
Pearl is quiet. "...fine," she says. "What do we do?"
"I thought there would be more fighting," Grian says, deflating.
"I think we're all tired for that," Scar says. And Mumbo says -
"What were you all going to build? Next season. Are you going to build, I mean."
Grian blinks. "Does it matter? We have to find something to do about what we are now, not -"
"I wanted to study aliens," Pearl says promptly, before sounding a little surprised she said it at all. "I mean... I was going to theme my stuff around aliens. I wanted to build with bright colors. I had a whole alien I was going to bring over, too. A giant deer-bird."
"Oh, that's cool," Mumbo says. "I'd only gotten as far as vault. It's been too long since I built a vault door, and I thought, what if I themed my whole start around it? And becoming the richest hermit."
"Oh, that's cool," Pearl says.
Everyone is quiet for a bit. Grian is much quieter when he says: "We just decided we can't pretend this is normal."
"I know," Mumbo says.
"Why are we talking about our plans for next season, then? Why aren't we doing something?"
"I was going to be an elf next season," Scar says. "Am. I am going to be an elf." He smiles, and it's strange and crooked thing. "And you're going to study aliens. And Mumbo - well, my friend, I'm not sure you'll be the richest hermit, actually, but you will make an attempt."
"I have plans for a raid farm," Impulse says. "I like emeralds! Oh, and a wither skull farm with Tango. We'd been talking about it, before the moon. Decked Out 2.0, you know? I'm going to help with that!"
"Oh, he's doing that next season?" Mumbo says. "I'm excited, I think."
"...oh," Grian says, and then he says: "I'm going to build a rock. Except it's not a rock. I have this - well, there's this thing, it's not that big of a deal, but you know, it told me it needed to be a rock, so I'm going to make that."
"Yeah. That's our plans for next season," Mumbo says, and he feels more like himself than he has in a long time. "I think the first thing I want to do is... I think I'll need slime. How do I even build a slime farm, though?"
"Don't you do that all the time?"
"Not without knowing where ahead of time," Mumbo explains.
Grian wipes at his face. "Oh. Okay. I guess this is what we can do about it," he says, quietly.
"Yeah," Mumbo says. "I just..."
"It's a good idea. Um. I think that - do you know what month it is?"
"Not at all."
"Well, if we make it there by whatever planetary April is..."
The beginning of the end goes like this: the five of them start talking about the future again. Not now, and not the terrifying part, but the future they want.
It's nicer. It's nicer than anything they've talked about it quite a while. Mumbo starts making plans for vault doors with the Uno cards, and they all start building card houses and arguing about design choices, and none of these will hold, but it feels different, somehow. This time, it feels different.
Impulse chases Pancake after the dragon steals one of the cards he was using to try to demonstrate to Mumbo the structure of the raid farm he has planned, and they're all talking, and Mumbo hears Scar laugh genuinely for the first time in a while, and he looks out at the endless void for which they still have no exit, and the future for which they have no proof it's coming. Then, he turns back to trying to explain to Grian how his vault is going to be Grian-proof, and it feels good.