"Lords Second and First, two of a kind,
came to Equestria once upon a time.
They confronted corruption and began a crusade,
that ended in tragedy one fateful day.
Now Second was trapped in his prison of stone,
the lonely God, so far from his home,
but ponykind cannot forget Lord First's last fight;
That one last battle that cost him his life.
Now ponies may wonder what waits after death,
The princess answers no questions and denies all requests,
But Lord First now resides in that shadowy place,
Forever waiting there, contemplating his fate.
It's said that he's the gatekeeper, that he judges our sins,
that he will forever be waiting 'til his companion joins him,
because the Human knows the secret, of what's on the other side,
He knows the eventual fate of all ponykind.
And though you may feel you'll never experience such power,
you too will feel it, in your life's final hour.
For the most righteous of ponies, to the worst of the worst,
at the gate between worlds, will all meet Lord First."
-The Legend of First, from the Brotherhood of Man's holy book Fall From Grace.
Second leaned back in his chair.
"Carol, I got the job! We're going out tonight!"
The room was empty and dark. Some time had passed. Now was the perfect time to make his move.
"Studio's got us working on some new show."
He stood up to the chair and ran over to the wall at the side of the room.
"Well, that's what I said. However, I've heard some big names attached to it. Who knows? Might be fun."
Gingerly, the human wetted his finger as if he was about to test the wind and pressed it against the wall.
"No! You mean it?! I get to write the opening episodes?!"
The wall did not react.
"Mr. Thiessen, you will not be disappointed! I've already got a great idea for the villain!"
He opened the top button of his shirt and felt his chest. He had stopped bleeding. Now was as good a time as any.
"He's an alien, see? He jumps from one pony to another, and uses their bodies to get around. His goal is to try and possess the princess, and the main six work to stop him with the Elements of Harmony. Here's the catch though; the elements don't work when he controls one of them, so they have to outwit him first."
The human looked back at the table. Hopefully Equestrian physics were loose enough for this plan to work.
"I call him Sliske. Sliske the Scourge."
Their room included a water bed. Mystic Chant was now jumping up and down on it happily and sliding around. Gold Coin and Soft Spoken were both doing their own thing now. The business pony had immediately retreated to the bathroom upon their arrival in the suite to preen himself like a swan. He was used to the sedate life of high society, and walking all that distance across the fields and hills, and especially that final stretch up the mountain had taken a toll on him.
Soft Spoken, despite being several times his age and not exactly in an active profession himself, had coped much better somehow. He was currently inspecting the book shelf for anything interesting to read. As a butler, he rarely got free time during his usual work, and he was not allowed to abuse the facilities of Sparkle Manor for his own entertainment, so he used all his free time for reading.
"Hmm..." he said to himself, "Read it...Read it...Boring...This is a children's book...Read it...What the hell is this doing here?"
He pulled out a book in his teeth and looked at the cover. Yeah, it was that same trashy romance novel all those book reviewers in the Equestria Daily were currently raging about. It was a recent release and it had earned a lot of hate really fast. He couldn't possibly think why. He didn't know anything about it, but something about the book made some ponies' blood boil.
"...Let's have a read of you then."
Satisfied at his choice, the former butler walked back over to his own bed and jumped up onto it. He dropped the novel onto the quilt and opened it up to the first page.
The old stallion looked up from the book to find that Gold Coin had finally vacated the bathroom. He was much cleaner looking now, but he had abandoned his suit and tie.
"We hit the jackpot here!" he said, "I'm still not too happy what we had to do to get it, but this place is sweet! My own mansion wasn't this nice! Look at the size of the beds here!"
"This one's full of water!" Mystic Chant added, "It's like standing on top of a giant party balloon!"
"Don't stand on it like that Mystic!" Soft Spoken protested, "They're not meant for that! You'll end up bursting it, and you'll make the princess mad!"
"Oh leave him alone Softy. He's probably not even heavy enough."
"Mr. Coin, those beds are fragile, and-"
Gold Coin leaned down and snatched the older pony's book, which he tossed over onto Mystic's bed.
"Hey kid, you like reading, right? Knock yourself out."
Mystic immediately stopped jumping and wriggled across his bed to reach the book, which he immediately levitated up in front of him and began to read through. The butler meanwhile was giving Gold Coin the evil eyes.
"I was reading that," he said.
"And now the kid's reading it," Gold Coin replied, "We all have to make sacrifices Softy."
"...I'm going to go get something from the kitchens."
Captain Chain Mail patrolled the halls of the castle. Unlike Luna's throne room, the rest of Canterlot castle, or palace depending on who you asked, was brightly lit at night times. It was some consolation to the guards who were unused to the darkness. Besides, in case there ever was a break in, it just made sense tactically if your night watchponies could actually see.
Not that he was on night watch though. Chain Mail was just on his way to the front gate to talk to the guards stationed there. A lot of crazy stuff had been going on at the castle lately. Luna and Celestia had both foregone royal duties tonight to interrogate prisoners, including among others the mythical human who was supposed to be impossible to hit except not, and a unicorn who claimed to actually be a living bomb.
And that wasn't even getting started on that red machine, the dragon sleeping in the ball room that may or may not be possessed by an alien parasite, and the fact that Princess Luna had instructed all guards to be on the lookout for a bunch of harmless nobles from the Sparkle family, whom he had it from a reliable source were secretly evil cultists. Apparently their butler walked all the way from Sparkle Manor to Canterlot and handed the princess the most powerful weapon in history and a list of ponies who were part of the most elusive secret order to have ever plagued Equestria.
Life was weird sometimes.
"Soldiers!" he barked as he approached the front gate, "Any news?"
The gate was protected by a group of five guards tonight, who turned to face him as he approached.
"Sir!" said one of them, "No sign of the Sparkles yet sir!"
"And why would you be on the lookout for us?"
Chain Mail turned his head slightly to the side to see at least three of his targets waiting right there. Sir Ancient Tome, Lady Arcane Arts and Private Iron Hoof of his own daytime guard all stood in a line before them, and even better they were accompanied by an unidentified yellow unicorn and green earth pony in police uniform, who he was willing to bet were also with the Brotherhood.
"Wow, how did we not see you?" Chain Mail commented, "I mean...You were right there! That is impressive...Anyway, you're all under arrest."
"WHAT?!" Tome screamed.
"Sir!" Iron protested.
"Under what charges?" asked the green earth pony.
"Well, you're with the Brotherhood of Man, right? So grand theft, murder, and attempted regicide."
Tome raised a hoof and opened his mouth, as if he were about to speak, but stopped. He instead placed the hoof on his chin and stroked his beard for a moment. Chain Mail and his guards waited patiently for a reply of some kind, until the old unicorn gave up and turned to Arcane Arts.
"Auntie, I got nothing," he explained, "Say something for me."
The old lavender unicorn cleared her throat regally and stepped forward to address the guard. At first, Chain Mail expected an elaborate explanation or some kind of threat, something befitting the grandness of her appearance and civility which she conducted herself with. Instead, her horn lit up. Chain Mail looked to the side just in time to see the guard she was targeting.
In less than three seconds, it was over. The purple energy surrounded him, and the poor pony exploded into a cloud of ash right before the captain's eyes. Chain Mail backed away from murderous unicorn, and his guard followed his lead. Ancient Tome, who until that point had just been staring, now regained his composure and addressed the others.
"Screw it, we're found out anyway," he said, "Everypony attack!"
The other ponies didn't miss their cue. Iron Hoof charged right at Chain Mail and drew his sword, lunging at his captain with it. Chain Mail reacted in turn, whipping out the very same blade that he had used to stab Second and blocking the soldier's strike with it. At least he was getting an even opponent. The others were not so lucky.
Ancient Tome and the yellow unicorn mercifully seemed to lack the instant death spell, and so had grabbed their own opponents telekinetically. Tome was shaking his around in the air to disorient him, and the yellow one was ramming her victim's face into the wall repeatedly. The other two were already dead; One of them had his throat slit by the green police pony and the other had exploded into an ash cloud just like the first one.
"Go without us auntie!" Tome ordered, "Clear the path up ahead!"
The older unicorn nodded and galloped full pelt down the hall Chain Mail had just come from. Lacking an opponent, the earth pony soon followed.
Iron meanwhile was pressing his attack. He jerked around erratically and his sword strikes became unpredictable. Chain Mail was having a hard time keeping him at bay and was losing ground fast. In these times of peace, guards rarely fought anypony outside of sparring, and given how long it was since he had last had to spar with an officer, he was more than a little rusty.
The yellow unicorn had just finished brutalising the other guard. His face was little more than red mush inside a helmet now, and the smear he had left trailing from his body up to the wall was the most disgusting thing the captain had ever seen. It was soon joined by the body of Ancient Tome's rival, who mercifully seemed to be breathing in spite of his condition.
"I'll go find the snitches sir," said the unicorn mare.
She ran off in the same direction the others had.
"You should go too sir," Iron Hoof grunted between sword swings, "I've got this guy!"
Chain Mail felt a little insulted by that implication, but in fairness Iron was a very credible threat to him. He was out of touch after so many years working in a senior office. He hated sparring matches. They were just like gym classes back in school, a period in his life which he remembered nothing from except the image of a thousand basket balls flying at him. The moment he was high enough in office to allow it, he excused himself from the matches and never went back to them. In hindsight, that now seemed like a very bad idea.
"Catch up with me later Iron," Tome replied, before turning to follow the others.
Iron Hoof focused his attention back on Chain Mail and lunged at him again. The white coated pony failed to dodge or block this time. By pure luck, the blade failed to puncture the armour, but being stabbed was still not a pleasant experience, and the captain still felt the impact of the attack. The soldier began advancing on him.
"You're a fool captain, and you just got lucky last time," he said menacingly, "I should have stuck around to kill you when me and Frosty were robbing the royal archives."
Chain Mail's eyes went wide.
"What?!" he thundered "That was you that killed all those ponies?! You're way out of line private! There was a time when we'd hang ponies for crimes like that, and if I had my way we'd still do it!"
"Why give the tyrant another weapon to use against us?!" Iron Hoof shouted, "Celestia and Luna are poison to this land, and the human is the cure! If you would stand in the way of Equestria's salvation, you too shall die!"
Iron swung his sword again, nearly losing his grip from how much power he put behind the strike. Chain Mail saw his chance and made a counterattack, swinging upwards with his own sword and knocking his opponent's weapon loose. Iron's sword clattered to the ground and the pony was left defenceless.
He wasn't ready to give up yet though, and the demented earth pony ran to pick up the sword again. Chain Mail didn't give him the chance. Before Iron Hoof could bend down to grab the hilt, the captain swung again and sliced Iron's left foreleg off just below the knee guard.
His enemy fell to the ground and began nursing the stump where he once had a hoof. Chain Mail was hardly sympathetic. Sheathing his own weapon, he walked over to where Iron's sword had fallen and kicked it almost to the other end of the hallway. The captain turned away from the writhing pony and trotted down the hallway in the direction the other cultists went. Half way, he stopped to look over his shoulder.
In the dark ball room, Spike's eyes flickered open. Standing right next to the dragon's face was one of the royal guards. He recognised him immediately.
"Broad Sssssssssword, what are you doing here?"
Sliske noticed that despite Spike's physiology giving him a natural booming voice, for some reason when he was in control and speaking it was as quiet as when he just had a pony's voice. Was Spike being intentionally loud this whole time? Because if he wasn't, it didn't make much sense that his voice was quiet when Sliske was speaking through him. Perhaps when possessing his victims, the mutations like the sharper teeth and snake eyes also came with changes to the vocal chords?
Come to think of it, that could also explain why he stretched out his 'S' sounds without knowing he was doing it.
"Oh hey doc," the guard replied cheerily, "I'm here on nightwatch. I was going to do the city again, but they changed my shift because the human is here now, and the castle is under attack from some cultists or something. I don't know. I wasn't paying attention. Point is, I was asked to wake Spike and ask him to come help out. I didn't expect to see you here though doc!"
"It hassssssss been a trying day..."
"Yeah...I'll say. How did that revolution thing go then? Did Second let you down?"
Sliske did something with Spike's face that looked like it was trying to convey sadness.
"Sssssssecond got himssssssself captured, and I wasssssss trapped in Sssssssspike'sssss mind. I'm only sssssssssslightly in control now, and it'ssssss difficult to maintain. Cursssssed Luna usssssed an old sssssspell on me. A painful ssssspell."
"Tsk, tsk," Broad Sword replied, "Those princesses...Always overreacting to everything, am I right?"
"I know! I mean, I jusssst wanted a ssssssssuitable hossssssst body! It'ssssss not like it had to be anything ssssssssspecial. Asssssssss long asssss it could hold me without falling apart, it would have been fine. But no! 'He'ssssssss an alien parassssssssite, sssssssend him to the moon!' We had a word for that back on Planet Zarlow. It was racccccccisssssssm."
The nightwatch pony was quiet for a moment.
"Tragic," he said, "But I still have a job to do, doc. I need to wake up Spike, remember? I know you need the body and all that, but...Well...Orders are orders. Priorities, you know?"
"Sssssssso what do you want me to do?"
"Well...Vacating the body would be a nice start."
"I need a hossssssst to sssssssurvive! If anypony catchessssssss me in my normal form, I would be vulnerable!"
"Hmm...What if you got another temporary host?"
"...That could work."
"I might be able to find a volunteer around here somewhere. I'm sure somepony would be willing."
"What about you?"
"What about me?"
"Could I usssssssse you?"
Broad Sword blushed slightly.
"Well, I don't know doc! I think that might be kinda awkward. See I have a lot of embarrassing memories from childhood, and I know that if you're in my head-"
"I promisssse I won't look."
The guard raised an eyebrow.
"You promise doc? Do you swear you won't?"
"No, you have to actually do the rhyme!"
"Broad Sssssssword, ssssshut up. I already promissssssed. Don't pretend doing or not doing the Pinkie ssssssswear makes it any more or lessssss valid than my word alone. Thissssss extra formality issssssss trivial and pointlessssssss, and you're upsssssetting me with your lack of trussssssst. Aren't we friendsssssssssss Broad Ssssssword? Don't you trusssssst me?"
Broad Sword looked up into the face of the giant purple dragon, whose snake eyes and oversized teeth betrayed the presence of the evil alien parasite who had killed hundreds and caused misery and death for thousands of years. Without hesitation, he answered;
"Sure we're friends doc! I trust you. I just like doing the rhyme. It makes the promise seem special. I would have thought that being my friend you would have indulged me just this once, I mean considering I'm about to let you crawl inside my brain, I hoped you'd at least give me that much."
"But the rhyme is childisssssh and ssssssstupid!"
"I'm a childish pony, doc."
Sliske sighed heavily.
"Only for you Broad Sssssssword," he said reluctantly.
The possessed dragon cleared his throat.
"Crosssss my heart and hope to fly, sssssssstick a cupcake in my eye," he recited, "There. I did it. Now will you pleassssssse sssssstop humiliating me?"
"Okay doc, I'm convinced. Any time you're ready."
Explodey McGee stirred in his cell. There was shouting coming from down the hall. He climbed out of his bunk and inched towards the bars. Whatever was going on, it was happening on the other side of a pair of red double doors at the end of the hallway. Some guards were screaming, and a splatter of red appeared on the tiny windows that they put in the door for some reason.
The doors burst open at the end, giving way to a duo of ponies. An elderly lavender unicorn and a green earth pony in police uniform, both mares, entered the hallways leading past the prison cells. In the corridor beyond, Explodey could see several bodies and piles of ash lying on the floor. Most of the corpses were bleeding from the neck. Upon seeing that the green earth pony was holding a bloody knife in between her teeth, Explodey felt his blood run cold.
The two passed through and almost right by him, but the old unicorn stopped and turned to look at him. Her partner quickly noticed that she had stopped and also turned to face the prisoner. They stared at each other in silence for almost a full minute. Explodey had never been more afraid in his entire life.
"...Seems the princess has been keeping a prisoner," the older mare commented, "That's a real rarity. I didn't think these dungeons were actually still in use."
Though he was afraid, Explodey tried to keep up his chipper attitude. If they didn't know he was afraid they could do nothing to him. He had to laugh in the face of danger. Playing it safe was for wimps. He would engage them directly, and he would be just so gosh-darn cheerful that they would leave him alone. That actually worked in real life, right?
"They're not!" he said happily, "Celestia is just keeping them open for me!"
"And why would that be?" the earth pony asked curiously.
"Because I can explode and survive it," he explained, "My special talent is self detonation! The princess was worried when I told her, and until she has it all figured out, I'm staying here in the palace!"
The two ponies exchanged looks. Arcane Arts suddenly looked furious.
"You mean to tell me that because you have unusual abilities, the princesses are holding you here and experimenting on you?!"
She was very angry. It was making the poor unicorn nervous. He didn't know what he said wrong, but he had to tread lightly here. He didn't want to get on the bad side of these ponies.
Explodey cringed upon seeing their reaction.
"Please don't hurt me!" he begged.
"...Excuse me sir," said Sergeant Justice, "let me talk with my associate for a minute."
The two cultists moved aside and waited until they were out of the prisoner's earshot. Explodey McGee had retreated back into his cell to shake uncontrollably, while the two mares huddled together for their private discussion.
"What do we do?" the young earth pony asked.
"I don't know Justice. This poor colt is another victim of those tyrants, and one of the first cases of real solid proof about our claims. A pony being captured and experimented on just because Celestia doesn't understand his abilities? Is she hoping to weaponize him or something? Clearly he's been subject to abuse as well. He screamed 'don't hurt me!' Sounds to me like he's being mistreated by the guards too."
"Should we break him out?"
Arcane Arts smiled.
"Let's do it."
Ancient Tome knocked the other guards aside effortlessly and strode through the hallway. The Brotherhood had planned their roles in this carefully. The plan screwed up the moment they arrived at the gate, but damnit, they didn't have any other plan. In lieu of any kind of backup, the ponies instead kept to the original plan. Auntie and Swift Justice would go to the dungeons and try to find Lord Second, Chameleon would go to track down his son, and possibly Gold Coin and Soft Spoken as well, and he was tasked with finding the Reaper's Horn and retrieving it.
His was possibly the most dangerous job of all. The Reaper's Horn would be under heavy security until it was ready to be returned to the royal archives, assuming they decided to still keep it there anyway. He fully expected that the princesses were hanging on to it themselves, and he would actually have to pry the weapon from the grasp of Celestia herself to get it back. He was not looking forward to trying to fight an alicorn. It was like a mouse challenging a hawk.
Continuing his brisk trot towards the throne room, Ancient Tome passed by the door to the ball room, which was hanging open loosely. Somepony had left recently. Curiosity getting the better of him, Ancient Tome walked into the room and stopped in his tracks upon seeing it's single occupant.
The purple dragon snored lightly, smoking billowing from his nostrils with every breath. Ancient Tome knew him from the storybooks. Spike the Eternal. The last of the old dragons. His family were once at least acquaintances of Spike, but contact between the Sparkles and the ancient dragon faded a few generations back.
Spike's eye shot open. Ancient Tome watched in awe as the massive dragon rose up from his slumber and stretched his limbs, scraping the ceiling of the chamber. He yawned loudly, the sound booming through the chamber and echoing off the walls. The ceiling was actually too low for him, so Spike soon crouched down onto all fours again. The unicorn waited for him to speak, wondering what this ancient being had to say to a mortal such as himself.
"Hey there," he said in a remarkably casual tone, "I'm Spike. Nice to meet you."
Damn his voice was loud.
"...I'm...I'm uh...Ancient Tome..."
Spike's eyes widened and he leaned in close to his visitor.
"Ancient Tome?" he repeated, "As in Ancient Tome from the House of Sparkle, the great grandson of Spellbound Star?"
The unicorn nodded. Spike's eyes narrowed.
"As in the same Ancient Tome whom Celestia informs me fell in with the Brotherhood of Man?"
Tome began to sweat. Spike picked up on this immediately. The bearded unicorn turned to run away, but Spike moved first. A huge clawed hand came down on him before he could move. Spike's claws dug into the ground of the chamber in front of Tome and blocked his pathway. He closed his palm, and the dragon grasped Ancient Tome in his hand and brought him up to eye level with him.
"You are a disappointment and a disgrace to a thousand years of noble ponies. I knew your forefathers. I was there at the very beginning, before even the human. They were heroes, generous and kind ponies who wanted nothing more than to help Equestria and bring about an age of peace. You and your brotherhood are an affront to all that they stood for. They would be ashamed of you."
Face to face with an enemy he hadn't a hope in hell of beating in a fight or sucessfully fleeing from, Ancient Tome resorted to the next best thing he could think of. Trying to justify his actions to somepony who he would never convince.
"The Elements of Harmony made a mistake!" he shouted, "Lord Second was a hero too! He came to free this wretched world from that alicorn tyrant you associate with! He wanted to help Equestria too, by giving it back its freedom! All you're doing by siding with the princesses is denying ponies that freedom!"
"I've heard this entire speech before," the dragon replied coldly, "There have always been ponies like you. Every time there's a problem in your life or you disagree with something, you cowards shout 'tyrant' and point your hooves at Celestia and her sister. Let me tell you something now; I've known the princesses for over one thousand years. I'd dare say they're my last real friends. And I can tell you personally, that they are every bit the wonderful, selfless and caring ponies that they're made out to be. They care for all their subjects. I just wish certain subjects, like you, would see that for once."
"Why all the deceptions then?!" Tome demanded, "Celestia has been whitewashing history for thousands of years! The Legend of Nightmare Moon-"
"-Is completely true, and I know, because I was there."
"Okay. What about when the Spider Legion attacked Equestria? They changed the course of the moon to drown the army of spiders under a massive tidal wave, causing hundreds of innocent deaths in freak flooding! Then Celestia claims that it was the legion themselves who did it, to save her own image, but how could they have?! They don't control the moon! You know who does though? They do!"
"Except that it was the Spider Legion who moved the moon, using the derivative Elements of Harmony. They were intending to kill all those ponies. Celestia and Luna were the ones who stopped the moon from moving any further off course. I know because I was there too, captured by the legion at the time."
Ancient Tome raised an eyebrow.
"You were captured?"
"I was smaller then than you are now. I couldn't really put up much of a fight."
The old unicorn frowned.
"Why should I trust your word anyway?" he asked, "You're in with the princesses. How do I know you're not just repeating lies to me?"
"Because what would be the point of trying to convince you of the princesses' innocence when you're not ever leaving this castle again?"
Gold Coin hummed a jaunty tune as he kept moving from one interesting item to another. The vastness of the guest room and a diverse collection of ornaments, decorations, books, games and occasional comfy chair kept the earth pony occupied as he tried to look at everything. Mystic Chant, to his credit, had kept quiet and was reading his book.
All things considered, Gold Coin could honestly say that he liked the little colt. He was eager to learn, knew not to speak unless spoken to, and when he did speak it was always relevant to the conversation the adults were having, not just the usual interruption of inane questions or pointless observations that children usually had. To spend so much time around kids and not be annoyed was actually really refreshing.
"Hey? Mr. Coin?"
Speak of the devil. The earth pony turned to face the little blue unicorn, who was levitating Soft Spoken's book just in front of him. He floated it up into his face.
"This book is boring."
Gold Coin looked at the cover and froze. He knew this book. He had caught his sister reading it once, and it had been a very awkward situation. Why didn't he look at the cover before he randomly gave it to Mystic?
"Oh...Is it now?" he said nervously, "Well...Why don't you give it back here and I'll take it away."
Mystic Chant could clearly tell something was wrong, but did not protest. Quickly as he could, Gold Coin grabbed the book in his mouth and trotted over to the book shelf where he found it, placing it back on the top shelf.
"What the hell was Softy doing reading this?!" he thought to himself, "That sly old dog. I will be having words with him later."
He turned around and found Mystic was standing right behind him again.
"Out of curiosity..." he said, "Just how far into this thing did you read?"
That sounded ominous.
"Far enough for what?"
"You know what I mean."
That sounded even worse.
"I mean, did you reach...that...scene?"
"I did, and have never been more disappointed. The other colts at school always talked about it as if it was the funniest thing ever, but that was just weird and wrong."
Gold Coin just stared at him.
"What the hell are they teaching you kids in schools nowadays?"
The door burst open on the other side of the room, and Soft Spoken ran in panting.
"Goldie, we've got to get out of here!" he shouted, "The palace is under attack! The Brotherhood of Man have come to kill us both!"
The business pony narrowed his eyes at Soft Spoken. There was something off about the older stallion this time. He had an idea what it was, but he wanted to make absolutely sure first.
"Softy, I have a question for you," he said.
"What?! Goldie, this really isn't the time!"
"I just need to know quickly before we go, but did you retrieve the real Reaper's Horn from the kitchen like I asked you to?"
Soft Spoken paused.
"No, I was attacked on my way down."
There it was.
The younger earth pony trotted over to the doorway, looking around the room briefly. Soft Spoken just looked nervous, and was trying to emphasise the need for urgency. He silently begged Gold Coin to hurry up, but instead of gathering his things and heading out with him, the stallion twisted around one hundred and eighty degrees and bucked him in the face.
The old butler went flying back into the corridor beyond and hit the wall hard. As he struck it, he flickered for a split second and then suddenly changed into a yellow unicorn mare, who groaned in pain. Mystic Chant ran over to the doorway, looking shocked, and the earth pony glared down at the impostor.
"Chameleon, master of disguise," he sneered, "You're getting old. The real Soft Spoken was never a panicky wreck like you played him. I thought you always made sure to research your roles before a performance?"
The unicorn jumped back onto her feet and growled. Mystic Chant ran back into the room in fear, but the earth pony stood his ground and scraped a hoof against the carpet in preparation. Chameleon threw a quick spell at her opponent, too fast for her to charge up anything powerful, but just quick enough that he couldn't dodge it or buck her again first.
Gold Coin was launched across the room and hit the back wall too. Unlike Chameleon, he was lucky enough that he didn't hit his head, so he had a much quicker recovery. Mystic Chant was hidden behind the water bed at the far end of the room and peaking out to watch the fight.
She charged at her former brother in arms, attempting to gore him with her horn, but Gold Coin rolled to the side and avoided her. She stopped herself before she hit the wall, but didn't turn around in time to save herself from another bucking. This one wasn't as hard as the last, so she shook it off and bucked him back.
Unicorns were obviously a lot physically weaker than earth ponies, so she held no illusions that she really hurt him, but all she needed was a momentary distraction. She charged a spell in her horn and spinned around to face her momentarily dazed opponent. Her horn exploded, and a shockwave flew across the entire room.
Gold Coin was knocked back across the room and landed in a heap by the far wall, coat singed and out of breath. The rest of the room had received much the same treatment. Fixtures and furniture were all broken and smashed, while the walls and floor were black with scorch marks and the covers on the beds and curtains by the balcony were all shriveled and burnt. Over by the water bed, which was now punctured and leaking all over him, Mystic Chant laid against the wall groaning and nursing a bump on his head.
"Hah!" the unicorn mare gloated, "What did you think was going to happen Goldie? You never were the most physically capable!"
Her horn lit up again, and Gold Coin was lifted into the air.
"I'm going to enjoy this..."
"Hey doc, why am I still in control?"
"Because when I'm in charge, you sprout fangs and get snake eyes. I'm trying to hide here. This is a sneaking mission."
The two turned a corner and into another corridor.
"Can I just say that you sound really normal when you're just speaking in my head? No weird emphasis on 'S' sounds or anything."
"Please don't talk to me about that. It's a very sensitive issue for me."
"Sure thing doc."
"And stop talking to me aloud! I can only reply mentally, so talk to me mentally! Ponies will think you're insane if they catch you talking to yourself!"
"I'm trying doc, but ever since you joined me I can't articulate my thoughts. It's easier to just say everything."
They turned another corner and entered into a huge long hallway with red carpets and multiple chandeliers. At the far end of it, he spotted a group of dead royal guards and piles of ash.
"Well what if we have to talk to somepony?"
"Then I'll talk to them and not you. Simple!"
Sliske considered that for a moment.
"You had better not get caught Broad Sword. I know you're not exactly the brightest, but please just try to be subtle."
"Will do doc!"
"And stop calling me doc. I'm not a doctor, just like my name is not Fluttershy."
"Yeah, but doc just suits you so much. So does Fluttershy actually, but I can't think of a nickname for Fluttershy. Do I just call you Flutter? Or Shy? Shy's shorter, but just feels weird to say. So I call you doc. I prefer doc to Sliske at any rate. I mean, what kind of name is Sliske anyway? You sound like an evil wizard or something."
"I am an evil wizard!"
"Okay then. Do some magic."
"I can't when I'm not in a unicorn host."
"And you're not in a unicorn host. Ergo you are not an evil wizard."
Sliske was dumbstruck. His host, Broad Sword no less, had actually outsmarted him.
"...Touché my friend. Touché."
Off to the side, another royal guard charged in. Broad Sword looked over to him and gave him a cheerful smile. Hidden away inside his friend's head though, Sliske stopped dead. He recognised this pony. He had possessed him before, and then later watched him stab Second through the back.
"Captain!" Broad Sword said happily, "Nice to see you again! Hey, I heard the castle's under attack from some cultists or something? Commander Hail sent me to wake up Spike, but I had no luck. Do you know what's going on here?"
Captain Chain Mail looked around nervously. He spotted the bodies and ash piles at the end of the corridor.
"Listen soldier, I need your help for this one," the captain said urgently, "You're right. The castle is under attack from a group of five ponies, maybe more. They are extremely dangerous and have already gone through a load of guards. I took out one of them, a traitor from my day guard called Iron Hoof, but I need your help to stop the others."
"Do whatever he says," Sliske ordered, "It'll be suspicious if you do anything other than what you normally would."
"Sure thing cappy!" the guard replied, "Just point me in the right direction."
Captain Chain Mail gave him a disdainful look.
"Never call me 'cappy' again."
"Okie dokey sir!"
"Come on. I think they went this way."
"Where are you taking me?"
Explodey looked around for a possible escape in case the worst came to the worst, but he was in the Canterlot dungeon right now. The only escape routes lead into the prison cells. The murderous duo kept pace either side of him and watched him closely. The green earth pony was still holding the bloody dagger in her mouth, and the old unicorn had switched from cold blooded killer to her doting grandmother persona. The change was jarring and unnatural. Explodey was certain she had to be possessed by an evil spirit or something.
"Oh, don't worry about a thing deary!" the old mare answered, "We're just going to take you someplace safe and warm. You can have a nice cup of tea and sit by a warm fire! You poor thing...It must be so dreadful living here..."
Explodey recalled an old play he had once seen about a pony with split personality disorder. By day he was mild mannered and innocent, but under the full moon he transformed into a wolf and would stab young mares to death in the shower at his motel. The play was called The Incredible Hulk.
"Can we not go anywhere?" he asked, "I'm rather comfortable here, and you ponies scare me."
"Scare you?" the earth pony repeated, "Why would we scare you? What have you got to be afraid of?"
Explodey looked at the floor as they passed by another dead guard with blood gushing out of his throat.
"Nothing in particular."
Up ahead though, two ponies emerged from a side corridor. Explodey's face lit up as he recognised the first one as his friend Captain Chain Mail.
"Captain!" he shouted, "Help me!"
The two cultists got into fighting pose. Chain Mail and the other guard stopped dead in their tracks. Chain Mail held up one of his hooves in surrender, as did his companion.
"Woah, woah, wait!" he shouted, "We surrender! Don't hurt him!"
Arcane Arts and Sergeant Justice both eased up slightly. Explodey just despaired.
"Now you two don't do anything rash now," the captain said carefully, "Let him go. Nopony else needs to be hurt here. Your enemies are us, he's just a prisoner here. Leave him out of it."
"We shall not!" the old unicorn replied, "This pony is innocent, and we will not allow your tyrant of a princess to experiment on him just for being different!"
Chain Mail tried to take in what she was saying, but then remembered that both of these ponies were deluded cultists and that trying to reason with them or explain what was really going on would be pointless.
"Look, please just listen to me," he said desperately, "You've killed a lot of ponies here today. Good ponies. Ponies who were only doing their job and have no part in whatever it is you think our princesses get up to. I'm not here to debate with you about Celestia and Luna's actions or your beliefs. I just want to resolve this conflict and put an end to the bloodshed."
Arcane Arts smiled.
"Release the human," she said.
"You heard me captain. Release the human, and we'll let this colt here go."
Chain Mail hesitated slightly. Explodey's eyes darted around. Both of them were trying to think of an alternative. Any alternative. Just something that would help them out. Explodey was certain that these monsters would kill him if he tried to use magic, and Chain Mail knew that they would kill him if he made a move either.
Then, Broad Sword stepped forward.
"I'll take you to his cell."
Princess Celestia sighed to herself as she sat back in her throne. Out in the middle of the chamber, Luna paced back and forth erratically. The entire room was vacant of guards for the purpose of their private discussion, but so far all either of them had been able to communicate was that the situation was bad and getting worse.
"I mean...All these years..." said Luna, "...How were we supposed to know? How? We never knew anything about either of them. I can't help but feel we've made a terrible mistake here."
"I know, dear sister," Celestia replied, "What can we do though? What could we have done? He always refused to talk! So many times when we encountered him and the First, we asked him what he was and where he came from. He was the one who refused to give us any answers. We can hardly be blamed for being ignorant of their relationship when they never told us anything about themselves."
Luna turned to face her sister.
"Shouldn't we have been able to pick up on that though?" she asked, "I never really noticed it before, but it's so obvious looking at photographs of them both. I'm not familiar with their biology, but they look similar! The Second always looked older, because he had wrinkled skin on the forehead and the hair on his head was grey, just like some older ponies' manes lose colour as they age! And the First always had the appearance of younger pony, with a slimmer figure and bad acne..."
"I mean, Second even had a moustache!"
Celestia slid off the throne and trotted down over towards the dark alicorn. Luna was quiet as her sister embraced her with one of her wings.
"It's not your fault, it's mine," she said, "You're right. We should have guessed. But I'm the one who spent the most time dealing with the both of them. You can't be blamed for not picking up on that when you only had four encounters with them."
"Still though...Celestia we killed his son! If he ever needed a reason to take revenge on us, he has it now! What have we done?!"
"Luna...We weren't the ones who killed First. Responsibility rests with us, but we never wanted to kill him. I never wanted to see anypony killed. Sometimes, things happen which we just can't predict, like Steel Hammer's unexpected actions during that battle. And don't forget, that even if we had known who they were to each other, Second and First were still a threat to Equestria as a whole, and we still would have had to fight them. Perhaps it would have ended differently if we'd know the truth, but there still would have been chaos and violence in the meantime."
Luna remained silent, but the quiet was broken by the sound of a knocking on the door. It was a loud knocking too. The sisters broke apart and faced the door as it opened, and on the other side they could see Spike's massive form trying to squeeze into the entrance chamber. The two princesses watched the comical scene for a moment as Spike then tried to get into the throne room.
He had trouble, but by contorting his body and laying at the right angle, eventually the giant purple dragon was able to squeeze his way inside without breaking the door frame. Celestia thought it very amusing at first, until she saw that Spike was carrying a prisoner. He opened his hand a dropped a bearded grey unicorn at their feet, who groaned in pain as he tried to stand up again.
"Ancient Tome," said Celestia, "You're on our blacklist. Two ponies came here earlier today, and gave my sister the Reaper's Horn and a list of names. A list of ponies who are a part of the Brotherhood of Man. They named you the leader."
Tome glared up at the princesses. It no longer mattered. He saw no point in bothering to hide his hate anymore.
"I am," he answered.
"Why?" she asked, "Why would you ever get involved in a group like the Brotherhood? You're a Sparkle! You're supposed to be better than that!"
"The Sparkles have always lead the Brotherhood!" Tome snarled, "Ever since Twilight's day, our family has played host to their meetings and directed their forces, gathering the resources and ponies needed to make sure that we have roots everywhere in Equestria and access to everything we need to bring you down and release Equestria's rightful ruler!"
"You ignorant foal."
Tome looked up at Spike, whose face was nothing but pure rage.
"Twilight would never have allowed such a thing within her family. She loved the princess like a mother and detested those that would undermine the peace she tried to create. I don't know what your elders told you, but the Brotherhood's infection of your family was a lot more recent than that."
"Their infection of all the families of the elements," said Luna, "Soft Spoken and Gold Coin provided me with a list of Brotherhood members, and I count among them descendents of all the original Elements of Harmony."
Spike looked up at her suddenly.
"Are you serious, princess?" he asked.
"We didn't get confirmation until recently, but we traced several of them back to the elements. As well as Tome and Lady Arcane Arts from the Sparkle family, we were able to link a unicorn called Chameleon to back to Rarity, a soldier of Celestia's day guard called Iron Hoof to Fluttershy, and a racing celebrity called Sun Rise to the lineage of Rainbow Dash."
Spike closed his eyes and sighed. Ancient Tome just simmered angrily, not at all happy that they had gotten so many names out of that traitor Gold Coin, that they had discovered that much about their order's origins, or that when he tried to tell them the rest they simply denied it.
"What about the others?" Spike asked, "Applejack and Pinkie? Do they have descendents among the Brotherhood?"
"We don't have the names of all of them," Celestia replied, "We're still looking for the rest."
Ancient Tome's ears pricked. They didn't have all the names? How though? Goldie knew all their names! Unless he didn't tell them everything...They hadn't mentioned him, and he was in fact descended from Applejack. Did they not know he was in the Brotherhood too? Was he withholding some names? Why? To protect himself? Or was his betrayal all part of a plan?
Tome decided to keep quiet. He wouldn't expose Gold Coin yet. If he did have some ulterior motive, he'd wait to see what it was first.
"As for you," she continued, "You will be held here for questioning. I will have a guard summoned to take you to the dungeon."
Gold Coin screamed in pain as he smacked into the wall again. Chameleon was levitating his body and throwing him into objects as she had done with many of the guards before. This time though, she intended to draw it out and make her victim suffer. She didn't hit him hard. Just enough to hurt him and make him bleed, but not enough to kill him right away.
"Agghhhh!" the earth pony moaned, "Stop! Please!"
She didn't let up. The unicorn threw him again and smashed the pony against the wall yet again. As the torture continued, she felt a sting in her flank and heard a loud zapping sound, causing her to suddenly drop her victim. Curious, she turned her head to face the source of the annoyance, and saw Mystic Chant waiting behind her. He looked angry at her, which was just adorable.
"Let him go!" the little colt shouted.
He fired a spell at her. A lightning bolt spell. It hit her in the flank again and caused that same stinging sensation from before. Mystery solved.
Chameleon picked him up and threw him to the other side of the room too. This time she did it a lot more gently, enough so that he didn't go flying into anything, but it still hurt him. Satisfied that the colt was dealt with, she shifted her focus back to Gold Coin, but found to her surprise that another pony had appeared before her.
"You hurt either one of them again and you'll regret it."
It was that old butler. Soft Spoken. The one who had caused all of this. He would have to suffer too. She charged another spell.
"I mean it," he interrupted, "Do not make an enemy of me."
Chameleon faltered. The stallion wasn't very physically imposing, and he didn't even sound very threatening, but something about his words was just disarming.
"No!" she protested, "Tomey warned me about you! You're not brainwashing me!"
She shot the spell at him anyway. The old pony flew back into the wall just like Gold Coin had, and a small cut appeared on his forehead. She hit him with less force than she did the other two, but somehow knocked him out cold anyway.
With an evil grin, the unicorn turned her attention back to Gold Coin. She looked over to the balcony, and an idea came to her.
Mystic Chant looked up at her as she trotted past, and Gold Coin floated lazily behind her, bruised all over his face and burned all over his body. He looked desperately at the colt, and disappeared with his soon-to-be-murderer through the curtains and onto the large balcony outside.
In the cold night air, Gold Coin flailed about helplessly and tried to get away. Chameleon obliged him, and dropped the pony onto the balcony floor. He tried to get away, but she then held him down with magic, and then focused her attention upwards.
Directly above her was a huge gargoyle statue decorating the palace, an addition made by Luna about two hundred years ago when she went through a period of obsession with old architectural styles. The gargoyle looked down at them hungrily. Actual gargoyles hadn't been around for a while now, but the one hanging above them now was terrifyingly realistic.
"Yes, that'll do nicely."
Chameleon reached out to the gargoyle with her magic and tried to pull it off it's perch. It was a lot heavier than it looked, and trying to bring it down was a pain. To compensate, she let go of Gold Coin to save herself some magic, knowing he couldn't go far anyway. The statue came loose and she floated it above her. It was difficult to move, but she could do it if she focused.
"Now's the end for you Goldie!"
The yellow unicorn grinned maniacally and lowered the statue. Gold Coin looked terrified. He knew what she was planning. She began to move it over to him, and-
For a split second, Chameleon was annoyed by a familiar stinging sensation, but then stopped. She had been standing beneath it. She was stupid. It was such a stupid mistake. The statue had fallen on top of her instead of Gold Coin. She had failed to move it over to her victim in time. Instead, the huge lump of stone landed on her instead.
Mystic Chant looked on in horror at what he had caused. A sickening crunch and a cry of pain from the unicorn could be heard as the statue made contact, and the resulting mess was difficult to look at. The young colt just stood there, mouth agape. On the other side of the pile of rubble that buried Chameleon's body, Gold Coin shifted and pulled himself up over the top of it. He smiled weakly at Mystic, and then fell unconscious.
Broad Sword walked over to the cultists confidently. Captain Chain Mail just felt betrayed, and said nothing.
"Wise move soldier," said the green earth pony, "You're making the right decision."
The guard smiled at her. Sergeant Justice returned it. Without warning though, Broad Sword then spat directly in her face and ran for it.
"Agh!" she cried out.
The two cultists prepared to attack, but the police sergeant then began screaming. Arcane Arts turned to see what was wrong with her, and saw to her horror that a set of massive jagged teeth were growing in her mouth. Justice was screaming in fear, not pain.
"No! What did you do?!" she shouted at the guards.
Chain Mail looked on, completely bewildered. The earth pony was mutating right before his eyes, and all he could do was stare.
"I am fine Lady Artsssssssssssssssssss..."
Chain Mail recognised that voice.
Oh sweet Celestia no.
"Now ssssssssssssstay sssssssssssstill..."
The pony formerly known as Justice leapt onto the elderly mare and tackled her to the ground. She opened her mouth, revealing a long forked tongue. Arcane Arts didn't scream. She was tougher than that. She began to charge a spell, but then the purpose of the tongue became clear as it wrapped around her horn, and the spell was suddenly negated.
"I didn't know he could do that," Broad Sword mused.
The tongue withdrew from his victim's horn, and then shot down her throat instead. Explodey McGee took this opportunity to run away and over to the two guards. The three stallions watched in awe as Sliske pulled back against the cultist and caused the tongue to snap in half. The serpentine features immediately receded back into the green earth pony's body, and she fell to the ground limply. Lady Arcane Arts meanwhile seemed to have a heart attack, as she started wriggling about erratically.
"Back in control. Jusssssssssst like old timessssssssss..."
The old unicorn climbed back to her feet, and revealed that she had now gained Sliske's signature mutations as well. She grinned darkly at them, and then levitated the other cultist up beside her, which she turned her attention to.
"Rotten to the core thisssssssss one. Callssssssssss herssssssself Jussssssssticccce and pretendssssssss to uphold the law, and yet hassssssss killed sssssso many innoccccccentssssss hersssssself. I am dissssgusssssssted."
The purple glow around the pony intensified for a moment, and less than a second later, Sergeant Justice exploded into a cloud of ash. The ponies present were all coated in grey as her remains billowed everywhere through the prison. Chain Mail was frozen in place, and Explodey's legs were shaking. Broad Sword remained as cheerful and oblivious as ever.
"Nice work doc!" he complimented, "Though I think that last spell was a little harsh."
"Maybe..." Sliske conceded, "Perhapssssssss I sssssshould practiccccccce a bit more resssssstraint in future."
The addition of a new voice caught the attention of everypony remaining. Chain Mail, Broad Sword, Explodey and Sliske all looked over to the entrance to the prison, where a stunned guard stood at the steps, accompanied by an equally stunned Ancient Tome, wearing a magic-restraining bolt around his horn.
"I was...told by the princess...to...bring this new inmate here..." he explained, "Uh...Should I...come back later?"
Twenty minutes later, and everypony gathered once more in the royal throne room. Celestia and Luna sat atop the small set of steps and looked down on the colourful collection of individuals waiting around the room.
Spike stood by the back wall, cramped up as much as possible so he didn't take up too much space. Sir Ancient Tome and the possessed Lady Arcane Arts both wore magic restraining bolts and waited by the side of the thrones, flanked either side by a number of angry looking royal guards, eager to avenge their fallen friends.
Broad Sword, the rogue guard, was cuffed at the hooves and being watched closely by Captain Chain Mail, and Explodey McGee, for the first time in a while, wandered around freely and just satisfying his natural curiosity by inspecting wall decorations or talking to other ponies. He was currently conversing with Soft Spoken and Mystic Chant, just recovered from their own ordeal. Soft Spoken was smiling in spite of his injury, while the young colt just looked disturbed. Sadly no sign of Gold Coin. He was still in the infirmary along with Iron Hoof, their other arrest made that evening.
"Okay everypony, quiet! Pipe down!" Celestia ordered.
The ponies all turned their attention to the them. Royal guard, prisoner, misplaced civilian and dragon alike all waited for what their princesses had to say.
"Today has been a trying day," she said wearily, "We lost a lot of good ponies today to a needless cause, but thankfully some good has come out of it. I want to thank everypony here who had a hand in stopping the evil that is the Brotherhood of Man. Captain Chain Mail, Mr. Gold Coin, Spike, and much as it pains me to say it, Sliske, all had a hoof in stopping their rampage today, and they have our gratitude for that."
The guards and civilians all stomped their hooves in applause. At the back of the room, Spike clapped his hands as well. Celestia raised a hoof to silence them, indicating that the speech was not over, and gestured to Luna for her to continue. She did not continue though, for even when the sound of stomping cleared up, somepony was still clapping, and it was not Spike.
The crowd all looked to the back of the room. Between the open doors, Lord Second stood in his full attire once more, having evidently tracked down and retrieved his clothes. He was clapping slowly, but upon noticing that all eyes were on him, he let his hands fall limply to the side, and he strode into the room through the crowd of ponies.
"Wonderful speech Celly, really," he said, "You're all wonderful, I hope you know."
"What do you want Second?" Luna demanded.
"I want to fucking retire, but that ain't happening as long I'm stuck in this fucking country of yours! How am I still expected to even move? I'm one thousand and forty five! Most men my biological age are just praying for the day they can quit their jobs and live off their relatives, and most men my actual age have been dead for centuries! And yet, here I am, slugging through crap like being stabbed and getting imprisoned in stone, and people still expect me to do stuff! I don't want to do stuff! I'm tired! Fuck you guys!"
Celestia raised an eyebrow.
"Okay...So...You want to...leave Equestria? Is that what you're saying?"
"Finally, the bitch gets it!"
"Well, if you want our help in getting home-"
"Oh no! It doesn't work like that!" Second screamed, "I would like it work that way, but it fucking doesn't! And do you know why?! Dramatic convenience, that's why! This is a three act story, and I have to slug through that too, even if I don't want to!"
"What?" asked Celestia, "Second, you're not making any sense."
"I don't have to make sense!" he shouted back, "All you need to know, is that I plan on destroying Equestria in about a week's time. Go get your precious Elements of Harmony and think of a way to stop me, because five days from now, I'm going to come marching back into this city with my undead hordes, and anyone in the way is going to get eaten."
The princesses eyes widened at the threat the human made.
"Now wait Second, please just be reasonable-"
"Too late! I'm the villain! Mighty Hasbro has decided! Next week is zombie apocalypse week. Deal with it!"
He looked over to Luna.
"Oh, and I'll be taking that."
Second held out his hand. Luna tried to pull it back, but the Reaper's Horn shot out from behind her and flew right into his grasp. The human took the weapon and turned it over in his hands, inspecting it closely. He opened it up with a click, and pulled some small red things from a pocket in his coat and placed them inside it.
"It's called a SPAS 12," he said, "Reaper's Horn my fucking ass. Do you ponies have to try and turn everything into an object of mystery and wonder? It's not magic, it's a goddamn gun. Granted, it sure as hell shouldn't be able to kill you, but then again, I shouldn't be able to shoot lasers from my hands and jump over skyscrapers, so this is actually less weird to me."
He raised the weapon and pointed it at Celestia.
"Remember the last time I did this princess?" he asked.
Celestia raised her wing and looked underneath it at the scars.
"Yeah, I won't miss this time."
A consciousness became aware of itself. It stirred slightly. The mind reached out, and found language. It was a she. It had a gender identity. Now for the rest of that identity. Memories. It found memories. It looked through them and attached those memories to itself. The mind had an identity now. It was Princess Celestia of Equestria.
The princess probed around some more. The rest of the mind was all here. Good. Now where was that body? She felt around, and located some nerves. Gradually, she gained control of something. It didn't feel like her body. It was lighter. The senses returned. She woke up.
The princess saw nothing but mist. Mist in all directions. She stood up. Looking herself over, she was glad to find that she did in fact have a body. It still felt lighter though. She turned in place to look the scene over, and found only more mist. She couldn't see anything. It was just a white void.
Then there were hoofsteps. No. Not hoofsteps. Those weren't hooves. The sound was different, and there were only two instead of four. That implied bad things. Celestia's memories indicated that the human was still around. That could be Lord Second. She turned to face her enemy.
That wasn't Lord Second. He was too skinny and short. His hair was light brown instead of grey, and he lacked the moustache and wrinkles. It was definitely a human, but it wasn't the human. It was a different human, but it was still a human she knew. Lord Second's partner in crime. His companion. His son. Lord First. Anthony.
He looked blankly at her, and spread his arms either side of him to indicate the mist.
"Welcome to the afterlife princess," he said, "You're dead."
And here we are at the end of chapter five. Some notes about this part for those of you that care.
The criticisms of my last chapter were far fewer than those of previous ones. I can only take that as a sign I'm doing something right, but criticisms are still there, and I still have to work on some aspects. Yours Sincerely on Equestria Daily pointed out a few grammar mistakes I made last time, most prominently that I've apparently been using 'It's' where I should have been using 'Its'. Those mistakes are still in this chapter because I haven't been screening them yet, but I plan to go back and correct all instances of it's/its in a later revision, including this chapter. Not now though, because it's boring and late at night, and I have to take care of my little brother because mum's out.
Side note: It is actually spelled 'mum' here in Britain. I actually think it's weird too. I've been exposed to American TV my whole life, but I still write it that way. I wonder why it is spellings deviate like that? You would have thought that with the advent of the dictionary there would be fixed spellings for all words, and yet some still slip through the cracks. Weird.
I've been told that the difference between Spike in the show and Spike in Human is a bit jarring, and I plan to address that too. I actually wanted to fit in a few flashbacks explaining how Spike became the way he is now, but given everything else happening in the chapter, it just felt out of place and slowed everything down, so it may have to wait. Maybe I'll explore the issue in an interlude chapter, if I get sufficient support for the idea.
The light grimdark tag on EqD is coming into play now, because now we're gonna start killing off some characters. Those of you that thought some of the Brotherhood members were a tad unnecessary now see their purpose: Cannon fodder. I know, I know. Making characters to be cannon fodder is poor practice, but you know what? I need some ponies to die in certain places in this fic, and I really don't have time to to make sure the audience builds an emotional attatchment to each of them. Besides, they were all villains. If I did devote time to trying to give them a character before I killed them off, would anyone have actually been sad when they died? Thought not.
And as a final note, I've been thinking of getting a new image for the story. The current one was thrown together with some clip art and MS paint editing. It served it's purpose, but I look at it and I keep thinking it looks like it should be attached to a Conversion Bureau fic. I had an idea for another image, a big cinematic sort of one that looked like a movie poster, but I have no art skills or artistically inclined friends, so no dice on that one. By the description, I never wanted to read Past Sins, but that image, oh that image, I couldn't resist, and I think that what Human needs is something like that, to get curious people interested. I feel bad for begging, but if anyone reading this feels it would be worth your time and that you're a competent artist, give me a link to your DA profile or anywhere else I can find some examples of your work, and I may get in touch. Though be warned that my idea comes with a need to draw a detailed human face.
Other than that, thanks for reading and thanks for being so great about everything. I'll have to wait until the finale to really call it, but I think this experiment so far has been a sucess.