"AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH…" Yawned Lyra as she repositioned herself underneath her warm blankets. She faced away from the blinding alarm clock Celestia had placed in the sky, even though her curtains were doing their best to keep her room as dark as possible, the bright orb had nary a snooze button and soon forced the mare awake. "Alright, you win…I'm up, I'm up…" Although she said it didn't make it true. She felt her stomach grumble, as she hadn't eaten since yesterday afternoon before Pyro had regained consciousness.
Pyro. That's right, she had almost spaced him out of her mind, which would be impressive were it not so early and the fact that she probably couldn't have described her Cutie Mark before her morning coffee. Her stomach once again restated it's argument as to why Lyra should get up before it was accompanied by her lower intestines.
She groggily got herself out of her immensely comfortable bed which immediately began to lure her back to it's confines. She managed to resist and walked slowly down her stairs, running over her day in her head as she went.
'Okay; Bonbon said she was coming sometime around noon for our day out, afterwards I have to go get some apples from AJ (that'll be fun), let's see, then I have to-'
"Oh, morning Pyro."
'-then I have to ask one of those guards if they're doing anything for…Pyro?' The past two days suddenly came rushing back to her; she had a potentially dangerous humanoid fire-starter wandering around her two-story house in the middle of a very small community where word of mouth gets around faster than Rainbow Dash when the Wonderbolts were in town. As now he was…he was…wearing a shower cap?
Lyra rubbed her eyes with her hooves to make sure she wasn't just having a bizarre dream while still incased within her heavenly blanket. No such luck. She stood in the middle of her hallway, mouth agape, as the masked man shuffled, just as slowly as she had been moving, into the bathroom she so desired. She stared blankly at the wooden door for a moment.
"Did he…did he just-"
"HE DID! He just stole my bathroom! Grrrr…fine, I can be mad about this later. Oh! But as for right now…" The green unicorn sprinted with unparalleled speed as she bolted into her secondary water closet a few more doors down on the other side of the living room. After freshening up, she wandered into her kitchen, still magically wielding her mighty brush to smash the rebellion that was her bed-head.
Lyra's kitchen wasn't very big, something that she wished she could change, it was really more of a counter with a fridge next to it. She was about to pull down some cereal from her pantry when she heard the sound of running water. Well, Pyro was in there taking a shower…NOT WEARING THAT ACCURSED SUIT ANYMORE.
A smile crept it's way across Lyra's green, sleepless face. This might be her only chance to see what a human actually looked like, assuming that the red leathery exterior wasn't in fact his biological skin. No, Lyra had done her research, she knew that humans didn't have a very wide range of colors like ponies did; really only ranging from ghostly white tones to darker shades of brown and black. Some of them had a 'red' skin tone, but nothing quite as vibrant as Pyro.
She moved quietly along the hardwood floor, careful not to hit the spots that caused horrible squeaks when pressure of any sort was applied to them. She got up to the door and carefully undid the tumblers inside the feeble silver lock with her magic and pushed the door open just a crack. Steam immediately arose from the break in the door, which was expected, what wasn't expected was the sudden rush of water that enveloped Lyra's hooves.
"What the hay?" She opened the door a little more, releasing even more hot soapy water into her freshly cleaned living room. "*Sigh* Remain calm, Lyra; this'll all pay off when I get to finally see-" Had it not been for the muscles of her face not allowing it, her jaw would have indeed broken through the floor into her basement.
Inside the flooded room, sat Pyro, still in full combat attire, hanging loosely out of the pony-sized tub that he was clearly too big for. Droplets splashed wildly off of his body, since water had a tendency to do that when confronted with rubber suits, and drenched the white tile floor below. He had made sure that his trademark filtration mask was untouched by the hot water via a pink shower cap. He scabbed his oxygen tank with a scrub brush as he whistled (or in this case muffled) a tune unfamiliar to Lyra. He had a rubber ducky placed carefully on one knee that he kept perfectly still least his yellow friend hit the unforgiving floor.
Pyro glanced over at Lyra, continued to clean himself, then looked back at her and let off a dampened scream as he furiously covered himself with the shower curtain and pointed (with a sparkly clean glove) at the door.
"HUDDHA-HUH! MUMRRRPHRM!!!" Lyra quickly shut the door while her mind attempted to save itself from what she just saw. But it was too late. She grimaced as she wondered back to the kitchen for that coffee she now desperately needed.
After downing the last of the bitter brew, Lyra listened carefully for any sounds coming from the bathroom. The water had stopped running a while ago, and she was starting to get worried about what he could possibly be doing in there; maybe he was planning an escape through the 1X2 window that sat above the shower head? No, if he had wanted to break out, he would have simply knocked her front door down and strolled out. So what was he doing!?
"Oh, how silly of me; there aren't any towels, are there?" She said to the bathroom door. No response. "I was washing them, laundry day and all that! Do you need one?" The door sat motionless, until finally, Pyro spoke up.
"Muum, mo. Hurr murph muuph." Lyra had absolutely not idea what that even meant. For all she knew, he could have been saying anything from hailing a cab to ordering a side of fries. This did little to her resolve.
"Oh…okay, uh, you wait right there and I'll go get some!" She returned from upstairs a moment later with a few towels draped over her back. 'Okay, this morning could have gone better, but hopefully these'll show him that I'm sorry I just barged in…on…him…OH NO!' Lyra froze, the towels fell to the floor. Inside the still steamy bathroom stood Pyro, dripping wet, with the Degreaser pointed at his head. "Pyro! NO!!!" She lunged for Pyro, but she wasn't fast enough, he squeezed the trigger…
Twilight looked out at the shimmering city. Canterlot was something that couldn't really be described and could only be experienced, at least, that's what Twilight thought. She had grown up in the Royal City as a filly and even though she loved her home in Ponyville and all of her dear friends, she still got homesick for the pristine city.
However, Twilight didn't have time to look at even a fraction of her childhood home before the train she was on rolled into a dark cavern. This wasn't the normal train that she and everypony else rode on, this one was much different. It had a golden engine with the symbol of the guard on it's front, while the cars themselves were white with blue highlights, and it ran on it's own private track that lead along the outside of the city and into the barracks directly under the castle.
"Alright, we're here. Please, follow me Ms. Sparkle." Twilight looked up at Captain Ajax, the white and blue Clydesdale looked down at her with his steely blue eyes that had seen their fair share of combat. He exited the train and stood at attention as a nervous Twilight Sparkle stepped onto the platform. She brushed her dark indigo mane, the pink highlighted steak falling perfectly back into place. She loved the way it did that, the pink in her mane matched the main star on her Cutie Mark that adorned her lavender coat and added flair to her mane and tail…at least, that's what the beauty magazine that Rarity had given her said.
The station they had arrived in from Ponyville was…not a pretty sight. The Grand Central Station in the city was beautiful; maintaining the gold-on-white theme of the rest of the city, the station looked much like the interior of the castle only replacing the elegant tables and chandeliers with a massive clock and ticket booths. This was not the case for the Royal Guard Dispersal Transit. The station was little more than a poorly lit husk entombed within the iconic mountain with guards, both Royal and Night Watch, lining the natural warped walls waiting for redeployment orders. Twilight couldn't imagine having to spend more than twenty minutes in this dreadful pit.
She followed Ajax past a couple guards complaining about their train being delayed for another two hours and up a winding stairwell. She entered a small room with a narrow walkway and an uptight looking unicorn sitting behind a barred desk. Captain Ajax lined up behind the metallic strip.
"Stand on the platform, Captain." The unicorn said in a nasally voice, although Twilight couldn't blame him, the stale air in the cramped room was reeking havoc on her sinuses too. The large stallion stepped up onto the metal plate as it slide forward, rotating clockwise as it went. The stiff looking unicorn's short horn glowed brighter than Twilight would have thought as it enveloped Ajax's being in a surprisingly dull aura. An image of the captain flickered in front of him as he looked him over for any hidden weapons or anything dangerous. After a few moments, he stepped off on the other side of the conveyer.
"Alright, Miss, you're up."
Twilight hesitated, she hadn't dealt with magic-based scanners since was first accepted into Celestia's School for the Gifted when her horn had reacted on it's own accord and hospitalized the scanner with a serious case of being a colorful fruit. She slowly put one hoof one the metal disk before pulling it back with a shiver.
The now very impatient unicorn let his thick-rimmed glasses slide down the bridge of his nose. "Miss, please. I have hundreds of guards waiting for scanning, and you'd better not try and sneak around it, that floor is designed to teleport anypony that touches it straight to a jail cell, so let's move." Twilight shivered, she could see the headlines now; 'Princess Celestia's Star Pupil Incarcerated For Stepping Outside The Lines'. She once again got onto the platform as it moved painfully slow for somepony who just wanted to get off.
She closed her eyes and hoped that nothing would go wrong, nothing would go haywire, and nopony would be reduced to a vegetable (literally or figuratively). She felt aura wash over her as the unicorn began his procedure. After what seemed like hours, Twilight finally dismounted the platform with a sigh of relief as she joined Captain Ajax.
"Thanks for not turning me into a fruit this time…" The unicorn said with a smile. Twi's face went bright red as she walked quickly out of the room. After a few more soulless steel hallways and exhausted looking guards, they finally reached a dead end. Twilight sensed something was amiss; why would Ajax lead her into a dead end hallway with nopony else…no, he couldn't be planning THAT. Could he? Twilight increased the distance between her and the Clydesdale as he continued to the end of the hall. He noticed that his VIP wasn't at his side any longer and turned to see a very paranoid lavender unicorn slowly inching away from him.
"Er…is everything alright, Ms. Sparkle?" His deep voice echoing in the bare hall. Twilight forced a painfully obvious fake smile.
"YES! Everything's fine! Why wouldn't it be? HAHAHAHAHAHA!" Now Ajax was feeling paranoid. He turned towards the wall once more and forced it open to reveal an almost blinding doorway, since Twilight's large purple eyes had adjusted to the low light, she couldn't see what was on the other side. He walked through the light and beckoned her to follow. She slowly made her way into the light and was blown away.
She was standing inside of the banquet hall! The one she had always visited as a filly whenever she had to talk with the Princess, but how did she get there? She turned around to see a large statue depicting the three classes of guards; earth, unicorn, and pegasus. It slide back into place against the wall with nary a sound. Twilight was stunned, and slightly hurt that the Princess hadn't told her about that, Twilight thought she knew everything about Canterlot Castle…she could worry about that later, right now, she had important business with the ruler of Equestria.
The massive doors that lead into the throne room swung wide and revealed Princess Celestia, who looked worse for wear having been up with Luna all night trying to help her condition. Twilight strode casually into the room and sat next to Celestia who smiled at her favorite student while the guards and everypony else bowed and exited.
"So, how was the trip here? Sorry I didn't get a chance to describe how bleak the RGDT has gotten recently." The pure white alicorn said as she levitated two cups of tea from a nearby table.
"Oh, it wasn't that bad, just a little…different. Captain Ajax was a big help."
"Mmm, he is, isn't he? Well, enough small talk; Twilight, I have some rather unsettling news that I want to keep between us. Is that understood?"
Twilight nodded, "Of course, Princess. But shouldn't we wait for Luna?" Celestia sighed, she placed her cup gently on the nearest spot of floor as she continued.
"I'm afraid Luna is part of the problem. Last night, a terrible fiend known as the Horseless Headless Horseman appeared before Luna and I for the first time in over a thousand years. Right now, Luna is bedridden while under the careful eye of some of Equestria's best physicians."
Twilight didn't know how to respond, other than catching the glass she almost let shatter on the marble floor. "Oh my gosh! Is she okay!? That monster didn't hurt her did it?" Celestia placed a hoof in front of Twilight's mouth and silenced her.
"Luna appears to be fine, she just had a horrible reaction to his arrival," a smile found it's way onto the Princess' worried features "much like how you had a less than savory experience with the magical scanners if I remember correctly." Twilight blushed again. Did everypony here find out about that? "In any case, his presence here means that one of my oldest sealing spells has either worn off or has been broken by an outside force, and considering the amount of power Luna and I put behind that charm, I think it would most likely be the latter."
"Then we have to stop him!" Twilight stood, ready for action. "I'll travel back to Ponyville as fast as I can- Wait! I'll just send Spike a letter and have THEM travel here! Princess, may I borrow some ink and-" Again, Celestia's golden shoe silenced her over-active student.
"That's not the best way of going about this; he is a very powerful warlock and could easily defeat either I or Luna in a one-on-one situation. Silas is predicable, unlike Discord, so I have already set traps for him in the locations he will most likely resurface. One of which being this year's Nightmare Night Celebration here in Canterlot. I do not want to cause any undue stress and make our current situation worse."
Twilight's face lit up at the thought of having Nightmare Night in her home city but then drew a puzzled look as she digested what the Princess had just said.
"Uh, Princess, when you called the Headless Horseless-"
"Horseless Headless, everypony makes that mistake."
"Right; the Horseless Headless Horseman, you called him 'Silas'. Do you know this creature?" Twilight cocked her head to the side and moved her ears so they faced her teacher at a better angle.
Celestia sighed. "I do…we do, Luna and I, he played a very important role in early Equestrian life. He was also a dear friend of Luna's."
"Well, I should probably start at the beginning; about twelve hundred years ago, Silas Mann became the first human to ever set foot in Equestria..."
Lyra wasn't moving, and Pyro was really getting worried about the small green pony. She had jumped in his way while he was trying to blow-dry himself off with his Degreaser's air compression blast, and she had caught the lion's share of it which had sent her crashing into the adjacent wall. Steam rose off of Pyro's still semi-wet body, his natural (if not abnormally high) body temperature evaporating the lingering water drops from his synthetic hide.
Pyro had been fanning her with the towels she has bringing him in an attempt to give her air, it was the only thing he could think of! Why hadn't he paid more attention to the Medic during his downtime instead of finding new ways to light things on fire? Actually, never mind that last part. That was important, and probably saved his bacon more times than he cared to recount. He really didn't have any ties to this horse; sure he had saved her from those flammable wolves, and she had brought him to her flammable house when he had passed out. Wow, this towel looks flammable.
He was broken out of his daydream by a thumping noise coming from upstairs. Could it be a Spy!? Not wanting to take any chances, he grabbed his Degreaser, lit the pilot light, and- whoa, hold up. He glanced around the room, seeing a bunch of colorful decorations and pictures of the unconscious unicorn with various other brightly colored ponies. Especially the one with the blue and pink mane, she was in a lot of those.
This wasn't Teufort, or Hydro, or Gorge…hell, it wasn't even RAWR (and that place was WEIRD). He lowered his man-made dragon and dowsed the pilot light with his fingers. Even he knew that he had to modify his behavior if he wanted to go unnoticed, and possibly, if he had to try and fit in.
The knocking must have been louder than he thought as Lyra began to stir, that was good; she would wake up, go fix that thumping sound that was slowly reminding Pyro how flammable things around him really were and…notice the small community pool he had unknowingly installed in her living room that lead back to her bathroom.
Pyro would rather take his chances with the mysterious sound than an angry pony. He bolted up the stairs and attempted to hide. Downstairs, Lyra sat up as she tried to stop her head from spinning while remembering what had happened.
'Something to do with Pyro…he was- ow my head…he was doing something bad. What was it…? It had to do with the flamethrower…oh, he had it pointed at his head and I went flying for some reason…ugh.' Lyra felt water splash around her hoof, that's when she noticed the lake forming in her house. "Grrr, Pyro…*sigh* FINE. I'll deal with this and then I'm coming after you." she said the last part a little louder in case the firebug was within earshot. She got back on her hooves and grabbed the unused towels with her magic and mopped up the suds while moving the wet throw rugs into a hamper.
She trotted back over to her cabinets and began to rummage for something to eat. She located her prey; a wild box of Daring Do Cereal. After finishing off the last of the herd of marshmallow bits, she heard a thump come from upstairs.
"I've got you now…" she said as she stalked her way up the stairs. She crept around the corner, ready to pounce, when she stopped herself. The last time she "snuck up on Pyro" she had almost lost eight pounds of fat above her neck at the tip of a repurposed volcano. She slowly moved into plain sight, and…
"HI LYRA! I brought you a letter!" Said the grey pegasus mailmare. She was perched on top of Pyro's backpack with her mailbag swung over her shoulder, as was her blonde mane. Her yellow, crooked eyes were half focused on a confused Lyra and the backpack she seemed to be attempting to get into.
"Oh, hi Derpy…uh, not that it's not great to see you, but, what're you doing in my house? Shouldn't you be dropping off my mail and then getting back on your route?"
The grey mare simply smiled at her. "That's what I'm doing, Lyra! But for some reason, your mailbox is up here, good thing I noticed it when I flew by!" She continued to try to open the stubborn green mailbox. Lyra examined the box poking out of the brown pack; that wasn't her mailbox, that was…shoot, what's it called? The "Postal Pummler"? Yeah, one of Pyro's stranger items that he had. It wasn't even the right numbers, this thing had "606", her address was "506". Duh. "This thing really doesn't want to open, did you glue it shut? That happened to me once."
"No, here," she forced it open with her horn, releasing a cloud of dust from within the previously unopened container, "there we go, just need to force it a bit." Derpy's face lit up and she happily placed her important message in the defeated mailbox and raised the little red flag in triumph. She turned back towards the open window to leave.
"Oh, by the way, is that a Nightmare Night decoration? It's cool!" said Derpy pointing back down the hall. Lyra turned to see what she was pointing at, and her whole being drained of color as she saw what she was indicating. Behind her, about thirty feet from the doorway, stood Pyro, using his mimicking skills to impersonate the lamp he had knocked over by dawning it's lampshade.
Lyra was about to explode when an idea crossed her mind, something that Derpy had said…NIGHTMARE NIGHT DECORATION!
"YES!" The sudden shriek startled Derpy and she fell back onto the backpack with a clang. "Oops, sorry, Derpy. But to answer your question; yes, that is indeed a Nightmare Night decoration." Derpy shook her head from the impact.
"Ow Lyra, what do you have in this thing?"
"Uh…more decorations! Yeah, I'm really going all out this year, hehe." Derpy nodded and flew out the window after only bashing her head once. Lyra let out a huge sigh of relief, not only did she not have to try and explain Pyro to Derpy, but now she had an almost perfect cover for him if he gets seen! Speaking of which; "Pyro, care to explain the flood I had to mop up downstairs?" She said as she tapped her hoof impatiently. Pyro didn't move at first, then he slowly took off the lampshade and tried to make himself as small as he could by bringing up his shoulders and turning slightly away from her. He knew he was in trouble.
"Mmmmm, murrm humhur." He shrugged. He wasn't good with water, in fact, he hated the liquid substance. Lyra put her hoof to her face, she grumbled under her breath.
"Okay…as punishment, you have to…" she glanced at the open window, "weed my garden outback. Hop to it." Lyra said in a superior tone as she waved him off. Pyro didn't take being punished the way Lyra thought he would at all; he jumped up and down and clapped giddily as he did so before rushing past Lyra and into the room Derpy had just left. He energetically rummaged through his belongs and withdrew a rake that was the same color as the Postal Pummler (with what Lyra was fairly certain was dried blood from previous battles) and a red "Madame Dixie" hat with yellow flowers attached via matching band. With his proper gear assembled, he sprinted downstairs to begin his "punishment".
Lyra sighed. She listened to the heavy footsteps all the way down to her kitchen and out the screen door. Well, at least her gardening would get done so she could get ready for when Bonbon comes over…in twenty minutes! The morning had slipped away from her. She ran inside of Pyro's room to grab one of the clean towels she kept in there for a quick shower when she paused. On the bed before her lied the opened mailbox with the message Derpy had delivered, but there was something else inside the dusty tomb. A picture.
"Twilight? Twilight can you hear me? Quick-Fix, is she alright?"
"I don't know, mein Prinzessin. You said zhe collapsed after you mentioned somezing unsettling, yah?"
Twilight opened her eyes and was blinded by the ridiculous amount of sunlight the throne room's windows let wash over one of the most important places in all of Equestria. The sun had moved across the sky since she passed out, and was now at high noon, it looked just like Celestia's Cutie Mark. She blinked the blur away and looked up at the two ponies standing over her; one was Princess Celestia, the other…
"Oh…Princess? Ugh, I must've fainted, you were saying something about- MMPH!" Twilight was cut short by a hoof shoved into her mouth as the doctor examined the Princess' star pupil. "Mmmph? Ommur-Mos?"
"Hmm? Nein, I am not Over-Dose. Mein namen ist Quick-Fix. I am ze Prinzessin's ozer medic on call." Twilight focused her still blurry vision on her examiner, he certainly was not Over-Dose. Quick-Fix looked amazingly like the blue unicorn, only with pegasus wings instead of a horn and a red fur coat with matching cross Cutie Mark. Twilight spat the hoof out of her mouth.
"Thank you, but I think I'm okay, really." Quick-Fix saluted the two of them and let himself out of the shimmering chamber. Twilight righted herself on her pillow seat next to Celestia. "I'm sorry, Princess, but I thought you said 'humans in Equstria.' That sounds like something Lyra would be concerned about." She laughed nervously, the stern look on her mentor's face told her that she had indeed heard her correctly.
"I am quite serious, Twilight Sparkle. I too once thought creatures such as these only existed in stories and in over-active imaginations, but the fact of the matter is-"
"HOLY MOLY! Silas Mann is the HHH!?"
The voice seemed to erupt from out of nowhere. Twilight and the Princess looked around the seemingly empty room; nothing but them and the thrones…and the teakettle.
"Pinkie…" Twilight sighed as she levitated the porcelain kettle and flipped it upside-down. She shook it it a few times until a poofy, pink, cotton candy tail popped out.
The tail was soon followed by a lighter pink leg that had three balloons adorning it's flank, two blue one yellow, followed by the rest of the self-proclaimed master of ceremonies: Pinkie Pie. She shook her mane free of stray tea drops until it was a bouncy as her tail, and just as curly. "Pinkie, how long were you in there? How did you you even manage to- never mind. Can't you see the Princess and I are talking?"
Pinkie swiveled her head around in an almost impossible angle and focused her large blue eyes on the white alicorn giving her a confused look before spinning the rest of her body to face her and awkwardly bowed.
"Hey, Princess! I was just having some of that super-yummy tea and I must've fallen asleep, until I heard you talking about Silas!" The pink party pony received a strange look from Princess Celestia, she did notice it since she was busy wringing the last of the herbal tea out of her tail, but Twilight saw it. It was utter shock. Celestia quickly recovered.
"Ms. Pie; would you kindly inform me of how one such as yourself came to know about Silas Mann?" Said Celestia using all of the authority she could muster.
"Oh, I know more than just about him; yeah, I know about the whole Mann family, their relationship with the Hale family, and the fight between Blutarch and Redmond using paid mercenaries!" She slurped up the tea that she had managed to get out of her tail.
Celestia fought the urge to scream. How on her green earth had somepony, and a pink earth pony none the less, found out about something most of the Royal Liberians had never even dreamed of?
She inhaled deeply, "Ms. Pie, would you please answer my question?"
"Oh, sorry Princess. My great great great great great great great great great great grandfather had a journal that he handed down from son to son until my dad got it! He was in the guard a REALLY long time ago, he had one story in there about humans! My dad said it wasn't true, he said that grandpa wrote something called 'fan fiction' and that was just one of his stories."
"Hmm, Pinkie, do you remember what your grandfather's name was?" Asked Twilight, now very interested in learning something new about history.
"You bet! It was Commander Ironsides! He was captain of the guard for a while too." Celestia's ears perked up. That name…she hadn't heard that name in over a thousand years, he was one of her first captains of the guard. Now that she thought about it, his fondness for throwing birthday parties for everypony in his squad probably got passed down to Pinkie.
Twilight watched as her teacher's eyes glazed over for a moment, "Uh, Princess?"
Celestia rejoined the conversation that she accidentally left. "Mmm, my apologies, I was just thinking about those chaotic days. Now, as I was saying before Ms. Pie joined us; Silas Mann unwittingly became the first human in Equestria some twelve hundred years ago. Back when Luna and I ruled together as one…"
"OH OH OH! Wait a minute!"
"What about that picture Lyra found? And what about the Mann family!? Don't we get to hear about them?"
Well, yes, but you're going to have to wait until the next chapter.
"Aww, c'mon! PLEASE?"
Sorry, but that's all for now. But I promise the next chapter will wrap up all of the backstory so we can get back to Lyra and Pyro.
"Okey-Dokey-Lokey! Say, do I get to do any fighting?"