Every story has a beginning...
"Have at thee!" Deekin yelled in triumph as he prepared to finish off the white dragon, and former master, Tyrmofarrar. The dragon laid still in the ice-covered cave, bruised and beaten by the kobolds mighty lute which was still in perfect condition. A firm press by Deekin's clawed foot on its stomach caused the dragon almost ten times his size to emit a whimper.
"Please spare me Mighty Deekin Scalesinger!" Tyrmofarrar pleaded. "Take whatever you want, but--I'm pretty sure that's not what happened." The dragon's voice drastically changed from a low rumble to a much lower tone. It raised its head toward Deekin, ignoring the fact it was near-death. "Last time I checked, you were hiding behind your," he brought both claws up to emphasize with air quotes. "'Mighty lute' while I tried to convince him to not stomp on you for breaking the tower statue."
Deekin's eyes popped open and he found himself back inside the warm inn, sitting on a small stool. He was dressed exactly the same as when he left his tribe, most of it looted from some poor adventurer. An orange leather jacket possibly one size too small and a pair of baggy brown breeches. Both were torn and frayed at the edges from constant use. The only valuables he carried on his person were items his human master gave him, his journal full of notes for his craft, his lute, and a currently empty coin purse.
The kobold tribe that lived under Tymofarrar's reign in the Nether mountains always laughed and tried to tear down his dreams of being a great bard. Even Tyrmofarrar found it amusing until they started to hurt poor Deekin, which lead to the offenders being eaten or frozen. Since living in caves didn't have much entertainment, Deekin was considered a blessing to the dragon. Probably since he was intelligent enough to even know what a lute was.
Finally returning back from his story, he noticed the patrons around him who had lent their ears were now laughing thanks to his new master. He was the one at fault for pointing out his false storytelling. "M-master!" Deekin wailed in his normally high-pitched voice. "That wasn't very nice. Deekin was only trying to entertain. Is that so wrong?" He questioned as he tried to keep his dignity in check.
The human paladin to blame was garbed in full-plate and clearly showed his deity, Torm, as a crest on his armor. He sat nearby at a table just beside his stool, his helmet resting upon it and giving a clear view of the disappointment on his face. "Then tell the tale as it is meant to be told," he advised. "Lying and bending the truth to earn self-fame will only come back to haunt you in the future. You never know what someone might look for the 'Mighty Deekin' only to see a small timid kobold." The small grin and finality when he clapped his gauntlet-fastened hands together didn't comfort Deekin at all. "I know. Why don't you tell them another tale. How about the one with the talking horses?"
If Deekin's eyes went any wider they might have rolled out of their sockets. "Oh, no, no. Deekin completely forgot that tale. Yes, that's it. Brain not that good since I have memory of goldfish. Mostly hollow." He tapped his noggin with a knuckle, then rubbed his head afterwards in pain.
"Do it, kobold!" One of the patrons shouted. "It's better than listening to the blasted fireplace or howling wind outside!" He repeated "do it" and others began to join him until half the tavern was chanting. Deekin clenched his jaw and let out a tiny whimper. "Do it and If it's good enough I'll pay you triple the normal amount!" A patron in the back yelled over the din of chanting.
"T-triple?" Deekin said quietly to himself. He knew the normal rate for playing at 'fine' establishments such as this ended up with being five gold richer. That's including tips of course. The thought of so much gold in his pocket made him giddy and he almost fell out of seat. However, he remembered how embarrassing and far-fetched tale was. The human paying triple wouldn't believe something like that.
Looking at his master, he gave an encouraging nod, but also a steely gaze to warn him to not bend the truth again. "O-okay, I'll do it, but I don't want to hear complaining about it being fake." He waggled a long bony finger at everyone. "Tis a story as true as the falling snow outside!" Deekin shouted which earned several happy cheers for the only real entertainment to continue.
"Now, this tale takes place several winters ago. I was still with my tribe and under the rule of Tymofarrar. Unfortunately, I had just done something to, once again, anger him." Deekin closed his eyes and envisioned himself into the memory, its clarity as if it happened hours ago.
"Deekin, you little rodent!" Tymofarrar roared, the sound dangerously risking the sharp icicles on the cavernous ceiling to fall. "When I get my claws on you you're going to need another lute as you'll be eating yours soon!" He dug into the frozen-over stalactites and stalagmites surrounding his target like a prison. Although it was being used to keep the dragon out more then keeping Deekin in.
"P-please master! I didn't mean to have those icicles rain on your head! or accidently crush your tail... Or..." Deekin dove back and hugged the rocks behind him as Tymofarrar made another swipe, which was dangerously closer than the last. Deekin knew his master would always let his anger get out of control, but never seen his master actually try to hurt him. "Why are you so angry at me, master? Poor Deekin is sorry!"
"You made a fool out of me in front of the whole kobold tribe you little worm!" He spat, which reminded the trapped kobold why he was so angry: his pride. Growing frustrated by the second, he focused his strength on one of the stalagmites and it slowly started to crack. When it snapped off, ice shards flew everywhere and blinded the dragon for a second. The sound should have acted as a gunshot to a race because Deekin took that moment to bolt out of his broken prison, yelling at the top of his tiny lungs.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Please don't eat Deekin!" He squealed while running into the nearest room he could find, but found he made an error as there was no way out. The dragon would be upon him soon if he didn't act fast. Ahead of him was his master's hoard. Piles of treasures and other assortment of items the dragon saw value in was stored here. Seeing a small sack that looked big enough to hide in, he dove inside and curled into a little ball while holding his tail. Just as he assumed his favorite position to cower in fear, a loud thudding sound easily let him know the dragon was looking in the room for him.
"Deekin... my little bard," his voice not as harsh like several seconds before, and ridden with guilt. "I'm sorry for letting my anger get the best of me. Why don't you come out and... ugh... give Tyrnofarrar a hug?"
Deekin, being as gullable as a kobold can get, poked his head out of the bag. "R-really?" His eyes shining with hope that he was forgiven, but regretted it as he was shoved back inside the bag and closed shut. The bag shifting frantically as Deekin started to panic and flail.
"I knew you were stupid, but you really outdone yourself." Tymofarrar laughed as he poked the bag, earning a whimper from Deekin. "Do you even realize what you're hiding in?" Hearing a muffled answer, he guessed it was a no, or possibly another whimper. "I think you deserve to learn one more thing from me before I get rid of you for good. I can't let you off so easily, else the tribe might rise up against me. I'm sure you understand." He sorted through the hoard until he came across a ordinary piece of cloth hiding in a gold goblet. Picking it up by the edge, he laid it flat on the floor. Suddenly a dark hole appeared in the center. Big enough for the bag to be thrown in.
"Have fun learning what happens when a bag of holding gets thrown into a portable hole!" With that said, Deekin felt himself tumbling through the bag. Soon as it passed through the hole, the bag tore to shreds and all sense of existence stopped.
The sense of weightlessness was strange to the kobold as he stirred in the empty white space surrounding him. When his eyes snapped open, they were frozen in fear as he took in his bleak surroundings. "W-where is Deekin? What did Tymofarrar do! What about my bunk back in the cave?" As several more thoughts he deemed were important ran through his mind, he noticed a small island ahead of him. "What is island doing in middle of nowhere?"
Deekin desperately tried to reach it but only succeeded in flailing his arms and legs. He tried "swimming" through the "air", but to no avail. Not even the back stroke would work. When he thought of himself flying toward the island did he gain any success as he slowly began moving toward the island. "A-hah! Deekin is starting to understand how-" He suddenly felt his body tug toward the island as if it had a gravitational pull. He was going so fast he risked smashing into it.
Frantically trying to change his trajectory, he succeeded by thinking of moving away from the danger, but was now floating away from it. He yelled out in panic as this continued for several minutes. He would try to slow down, but only managed to fly through the emptiness like an invisible hand was tossing him around. After discovering that he could will himself which direction he wanted gravity to be, did he manage to land on the island safely.
"Deekin glad he no has wings," he gasped. "Else just fall on face every time he try to fly." Flopping down on the island, he stared at the white expanse that was 'above' him. Tilting his head further he saw an odd statue looking back at him.
It was a stone statue carved into a creature he's never seen before. Although he admitted to himself that he never traveled very far out of the cave, it was a strange creature in his eyes. There was no symmetry at all. Each limb was different, as was its head, tail, and what looked like horns on its head. For arms it had a paw and bird talon, and for legs it had a hoof and claw that reminded him of his clawed foot. Strangely, the longer he stared, the more he was drawn to it.
Seeing no harm in following this urge, he got up from the island and walked toward the statue. Circling around it once, he stopped in front and crossed his arms in confusion. "Deekin hasn't seen such an odd creature! who would waste stone on creating this?" Soon as he said this, the statue came alive and closed in on his face. When it was just inches from his nose, it said a single word.
If there were any living creature in this strange land, no matter how far, they would've heard the scream of terror from Deekin. He ran as fast as he could away from the statue and managed to fall back off the island and resume orbiting it, still screaming as he flew by the statue.
"Oh goodness, I'm not that scary am I?" The once stoned creature said, now in full color. He watched the kobold do several more laps around the island before growing bored. With a snap of his clawed hand, Deekin was safely back on the island. "I'm the strange one, hm? I've never seen somepony yell so long in all my life." He leaned down to whisper in his ear for a moment. "I'm quite old, if you're wondering."
Deekin stared up at the newcomer with wide eyes, his breathing coming in deep gulps. After several seconds of restoring his heartbeat back to normal did he speak. "W-who are you? What do you want?"
"Ah, I'm sorry I forgot to introduce myself. I am Discord, Lord of chaos." He laid a talon on his breast in a regal fashion before pointing it at Deekin. "And who, may I ask, are you?"
"D-Deekin Scalesinger, m-master kobold bard... Please don't eat me!" He added quickly upon noticing the large fang jutting out of Discord's mouth.
The peal of laughter that came from Discord almost made Deekin want to resume his favorite cowering position. "Eat you? No, I can't do that. Scales give me indigestion after all." He patted his stomach. "What I'm wondering is what you are doing here. You don't look like any god I've seen." He leaned in once more and inspected the small kobold in front of him. "Though you remind me of a certain yellow pony..." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"P-pony?" Deekin said with curiosity, but fear as well for Discord being this close.
"Why yes. You see I'm the Lord of chaos in this little universe called Equestria." Discord said with fake enthusiasm. "At least I was until I got banished by the elements... again. That was... how long ago?" He tapped a talon to his chin thoughtfully. "You know what? I can't even remember!" Discord laughed, but stopped when he saw Deekin with a bemused expression "Great, my first contact with another living thing and it has no sense of humor," he muttered to himself. "Alright, I'll give you a quick lesson on what's going on, but you're on your own after that."
Before Deekin could blink, he found himself sitting in a wooden chair with a black board in front of him. In a small flash of light a white stick appeared in Discords talon and he started to draw on the board. Two circles were drawn on opposites sides, with a smaller circle in the middle. He wrote 'Equestria' for the one on the left, 'Astral plane' in the middle, and 'your world' on the right. He then proceeded to draw smaller circles all over the board, but Deekin was lost after he drew the two large circles. When he was done, the entire board was covered in circles with lines connecting between them like a giant web. With another snap of his fingers, the stick turned into a longer metal one, which he then slapped the end against the Astral plane circle. "You are here."
Seeing Deekin nod his head dumbly, he continued. "I don't know what universe you came from, but you were here," he pointed the stick at the circle with 'your world'. "But apparently the universe must hate you because you are now stuck here with me. Now, each universe is connected to this very spacious realm before you. Meaning anypony is free to leave and enter as they see fit, as long as they know the right spell to reach it. However, even with all my power I am stuck here thanks to Celestia constantly denying me entrance. The best I can do to reach Equestria is back inside my stone body to count the blades of grass in Celestia's garden. And let me just say how boring that is. Anyway. This brings me to you." He pointed the stick at Deekin and tapped him on the nose, causing him to wrinkle it in discomfort. "You see, you can freely enter and leave this place. Think of it like a locked door. You know where it is, but you don't have the key, but a certain god of chaos has it. See where I'm going with this?"
"Uhmm..." Deekin said intelligently while poking his bottom chin thoughtfully with one claw. Discord, with his arms crossed, tapped his hoofed foot impatiently as he waited for an answer. After earning a confused shrug from Deekin did he begin to rub his eyes with thumb and forefinger in annoyance.
"Me. Moi. Mich, dear Deekin. I'm the key to you leaving this place. As are you to me. Seeing that you failed to figure that out... no gold star for you!" Another bop on the nose caused Deekin to hold his snout. "Now then," quickly waving away all the objects he had so easily summoned. "I have a proposition for you that is a win-win for both of us. You're a bard, correct? Weaver of epic tales. Entertainer extraordinaire. Yadda yadda."
Deekin nodded his head hesitantly and took out his instrument to show it to Discord. "I play the lute. Sometimes singing and dancing."
"Perfect!" Discord clasped his hands together happily. He pointed both index fingers at him while still holding his hands together. "My plan is quite simple really." Aiming his hands at the lute, he yelled out "bang" and a line of red light hit the lute. Deekin yelped in surprise and flung it aside like it had caught fire.
"W-what did you do to my lute?" Deekin asked while cautiously picking up his instrument again. He noticed the lute felt and looked exactly the same.
"I enchanted it with a charm spell so anypony who listens to it will be under your control, but be warned as they will return to normal if you stop. Oh, and don't worry about them remembering anything while being charmed." He added with a grin. "All you need to do is charm Princess Celestia and have her release me from my prison. In return, I'll send you back to whatever universe you came from. So what do you say?" Discord held out a taloned hand with a grin to seal the deal, but Deekin looked at it with his head tilted. "This is the part where you shake my hand and I send you to Equestria," he deadpanned.
"Oh... yes, Deekin just wants to return home. Will do his best!" He quickly stood up, his fear of Discord gone since he promised to send in back home. Grasping for Discords talon, the god of chaos decided to use his height to an advantage, leaving his talon just out of reach. Finally having his share of fun, he grabbed Deekin's smaller claw in a crushing grip. As soon as they shook on it, Deekin fell unconscious and he felt his body being tugged like a rag doll through emptiness. Before he did, he heard Discord laugh once more.
"Have fun, Deekin."
Darkness. That's all Deekin could see as he finally woke up. He shifted his head around frantically to figure out where he was, but could barely see ten feet in front of his nose. Upon closer inspection, his eyes adjusted enough to find out he was in a forest so dense not even the sun could pierce its veil of trees. "Does this place even have a sun?" Deekin mumbled while scratching his head. He slowly stood up and did his best to inspect himself. Seeing nothing out-of-place, he reached for his lute. Feeling around his back, his brow furrowed in worry. "Lute? Where's my lute!" Looking at the ground, he got on his knees to feel it with his hands. His left hand brushed against something and he quickly tugged on it. Feeling it move slightly, but stubbornly staying put, he tugged harder until he was rewarded by a startling twang. "No! my lute!"
He hadn't noticed in the darkness that one of the strings was stuck on something and his stubborn tugging broke one. Feeling along the instrument where the sting should've been, he let out a whimper. "Now how is Deekin supposed to be a bard with a broken lute?" A low growl from made him stand as still as the trees around him. Slowly turning his head to take a peek, he wished he hadn't.
Behind him were a set of beady red eyes staring at him from a bush no longer than several strides away. A chill colder than any blizzard Deekin had gone through hit him and he cursed himself for making so much noise to attract a predator. After slowly putting the leather strap from his lute back around his torso, he bolted away from the eyes. Soon as he did, a thundering crash and roar came from behind him as brush and branches were knocked away. Only the loud screaming from the kobold seemed to drown out the noise.
"D-Deekin not find this funny, Discord! Deekin wants to go home now!"
He thanked his small lanky form for being able to weave through the dense trees so easily. He had no idea where he was going, but knew anywhere was better than being near the monster behind him. Dodging around a thick tree, he yelped in surprise as a root snagged his foot. His momentum tossed him into the middle of a small clearing. Crawling toward the nearest large bush, he went into his favorite hiding position.
One of the smaller trees nearby fell and he flinched at the crashing sound. The beast must've known he was around here as his screaming had suddenly stopped. It let out another roar which Deekin guessed was trying to scare him, but he only managed to let out a strangled cry as he held his mouth closed with both hands. Apparently that was just enough for the beast as its heard whipped toward his hiding spot. Its eyes locking directly to his quickly widening ones.
The beast slowly made its way toward the kobold as it sensed its prey had nowhere to run. When it was a arms reach away, it swatted Deekin out of the bush. He tumbled out and on the grass floor, grunting every time he bounced. Even from that one hit, Deekin knew it was over. His body felt heavy as it wouldn't respond no matter how hard he tried. As the monster came to finish him off, he started to cry.
All his life the only thing he wanted was to be loved by others for his talent. His tribe and Tymofarrar didn't care for him at all. He was only there to entertain them and be shunned away, only to be called for later in the day. Now he was being tossed around just to be something's lunch. At least he would make the beast happy with a full stomach. As a last futile chance to not die, he managed to say one last thing.
"P-please don't eat me." He didn't expect an answer to his request.
"Leave him alone!" Deekin tilted his head up just enough to see a smaller figure on four legs looking up at the monster in front of him. The mix of darkness and barely conscious mind made it hard to see anything at this point. The monster growled, but was cut short as it flew in front of its face. "How dare you! This creature asked nicely for you to not eat him and what do you do? I'm ashamed of your behavior mister!" The monsters menacing growl cut off into a strangled whimper, but his savior wouldn't have none of it. "I don't want to hear your excuses. I told you this edge of the forest is off limits for hunting. Now go find food elsewhere deeper in the forest."
Deekin's entire body relaxed as he felt the beast's heavy steps make a quick exit. The creature that save his life stood there until it was out of sight before turning toward his prone body. It took several cautious steps toward him as if unsure of what to do. He would've flinched for it to start yelling at him, but was surprised how its voice was drastically softer. "Oh my. A-are you alright? What exactly... are you?" He couldn't hear the rest as his hearing faded away, like it was stuffed with cotton. Soon after, his vision degraded to a blur until finally he felt the blanket of unconsciousness claimed him for the third time today.
"Mmm... yes I would like that very... much..." Deekin mumbled in his sleep. In his rest he stirred upon the comfortable ground as a faint giggling was heard. Opening one eye to see what the noise was coming from, his other popped open and they both stared in a boggled fashion. Ahead of him was a short yellow pony with a pink mane, looking down at him with a small smile on its face. He found it slightly creepy that this creature was watching him sleep, even if its look showed no form of wishing ill upon him.
Deekin sat up from his usual sleeping position, which was to curl into a small circle and rest his head on his hands. He found himself inside a small cage made out of chicken wire. It was large enough for him to easily walk in a small circle inside it. Happy to know he was still alive, although his pride stung a bit for being inside the cage, he looked around to see where the giggling came from.
"Hello?" He cautiously asked while looking away from the pony for a moment.
Deekin's head snapped back forward, but all he saw was that same pony, still looking at him. It was giving him the same look he would make whenever he found something shiny on the ground. Not understanding where the voice was coming from, he held his head with both hands. "Who was that dark figure that saved me in the forest? It looks like the pony in front of me, but... " Deekin thought to himself and shook his head. "It couldn't have been this creature. Ponies don't talk. Even Deekin isn't stupid enough to know that." He decided that his exhaustion and lack of sight was the reason he couldn't see whoever was talking. "Deekin is so confused," he muttered to himself.
"Oh! your name is-" Before whoever was speaking could finish, Deekin once again whipped his head toward the voice. To his horror he found the pony talking. In his mind, there was only one response meant for this kind of situation.
"AAHHHH!" Deekin screamed.
"AAHHHH!" The yellow pony wailed back in response, startled from all the loud shout Deekin made. It then bolted around the house which was located right beside his cage, acting as one of the walls. He stared at the corner of the house to see if it would come back, but it didn't. Leaving him stuck inside the cage. He tried to force open the flimsy chicken-wire and wooden door, but all he ended up with was sore hands and further stinging to his pride.
"Door must be enchanted to be stronger than it looks," Deekin mumbled. "At least this give me time to write strange adventure. Surely this tale would be the best ever written." Deekin rummaged through his cloth rucksack to pull out his quill and book. Brushing away the hay around him so he had even ground, he sat with his legs crossed with book in lap. Placing his ink well beside him, he was prepared to write. "How do I begin?" Deekin tapped the feathery part of the quill against his chin. Inspiration came to him quickly and his quill furiously scratched the parchment.
In his anger he planned to turn him into plaster
Instead, with fire in his eye, he threw him in a sack
Portable hole in one claw, Deekin in other, another adventure he would take
Floating in vast whiteness, not sure where to go
Find island made of dirt, burdened with strange statue
Powers of gargoyle it had, come to life upon mine visage
Its name was discord, god of chaos.
Generous was he for a quest he is given, and a way to return home
Be paid in full upon task completed, turn Celestia to his will
Fall to darkness by magic, taken to unknown
In forest of gloom, full of dangers and darkness
No sooner did he arrive, danger find him
Through brush and branch, Deekin flee for his life
Trip on traitorous root, and find place to hide
Not long before monster find, prepare to eat poor Deekin
Hero burst from darkness, stop one from its feast
Deekin thankful, but weary. The dream awaits
Darkness welcomes him once more.
Deekin rubbed his brow while reading over his story a second time. It was a rough draft, but he would gladly refine it once it was complete. "Yes, Deekin sure this tale would be the greatest," he assured himself. Closing his book, he made sure the quill was empty of ink before placing it inside to act as a bookmark.
"Hiya!" Deekin's world was suddenly filled with pink. The sudden burst of color shocked him as it began to talk so fast he couldn't understand what it was saying. He tried to yell in terror, but the thing had stuffed his mouth full of something soft, sweet, and delicious. Unfortunately in Deekin's flailing to be released, the ink well flew through the air and spilled on both of them. As he desperately tried to wipe away the ink from his eyes, another voice yelled out.
"Pinkie! get away from it. It's obviously carnivorous." Deekin felt the pink form lift off of him. Soon after, all of the ink was wiped clean and placed back inside the bottle by a purple sparkling aura.
"T-thank you." He looked up to see two more pony looking at him. The one floating in the air doing back flips was pink all over. Obviously one that didn't know what personal space was. The other new pony was a purple unicorn, and it wasn't too happy to be here. "I think?"
The purple unicorn walked closer until she was in front of the small cage. Her gaze shifted toward his backpack and with a glow of her horn, it disappeared. It then reappear next to her. "You're stuck in there until I can determine if you're friendly or not. While Fluttershy here help you out of the kindness of her heart, I'm only doing this out of precaution." She poured out the contents and shifted them around with her horn.
The contents were an array of small trinkets Deekin had kept. Along with them was his journal, several pieces of over-salted jerky wrapped in a thin linen cloth, extra quills, and a single gold coin. The unicorn floated the book to her and opened the first page. "You're some sort of writer... Deekin, is it?" The kobold nodded his head and she continued to flip through the pages, her interest in his writing growing. Every page a story by itself. However, when she reached the most recent entry, her face blanched. "You met Discord?"
"Yes?" Deekin said hesitantly, even if the proof was right there in the book. "He would send me home if I completed his task for him."
"I noticed." She said with her face deep in the book. In this line it states, 'Be paid in full upon task completed, turn Celestia to his will'. What does that mean?" Deekin took out his broken lute and showed it to her.
"The one called Discord put enchantment on lute. He said it would charm the one named Celestia and force her to free him from his prison. After that, he would return me home." He regretted explaining himself as the unicorn's horn glowed and was pointed at him.
"I knew it. You're working for Discord!"
Deekin quickly got on his knees and started to beg. "Please! Deekin didn't know he was enemy of colorful horses. He promised Deekin the only way home and took it. Wouldn't you too?" He relaxed his body when the unicorn rose her head, her horn's glow dissipating.
"I suppose you have a point," she said with a sigh. "And we're ponies, not horses." The cage door opened and Deekin slowly walked out, warily eyeing the purple unicorn's horn.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Deekin repeated. "May I at least know the name of the pony who so generously spared Deekin from being caged forever?"
The unicorn's brow shot up in surprise. "Oh! I'm sorry. My name is Twilight Sparkle." She motioned with a hoof toward the other two ponies. "This is Fluttershy and Pinkie Pie."
"Hi!" Pinkie said enthusiastically, while the yellow pony mumbled something Deekin could barely hear. He picked up his belongings and put them back in the backpack, then slung it over his shoulder.
"So what happens now?" Deekin inquired. "Will you help me at least with my quest?" He frowned when Twilight shook her head.
"I'm afraid not. Discord can't be trusted no matter what he says. The best we can do right now is keep you from being seen from anypony else. The last thing we need is everypony panicking over a newcomer. In the mean time, stay with Fluttershy." She nodded to the shy pony, who nodded back in response. "I need to send a letter to Celestia. She will want to know about this."
Pinkie Pie gave an adorable lip pout toward Twilight. "Aw, so no super duper surprise dungeon party? I even brought my lucky D20."
"You can have the party, but it will have to be at Fluttershy's place. You can bring the others if you want, but nopony else. Got it?" Pinkie Pie jumped in the air happily and zipped away in a blur of speed.
"H-how did she do that?" Deekin said with awe.
Twilight only shrugged. "Try not to think about it too hard. She's Pinkie Pie. That's all you need to know."
"Oh... okay?" Deekin watched Twilight trot away, leaving him with Fluttershy. He rubbed the back of his neck in uncertainty of what to do now. "Want to show me around your house?"
Fluttershy nodded her head. "I hope you love animals." Deekin scratched his chin as he followed the pony to her front door.
"Deekin not meet many animals that were friendly. Most wanted to eat Deekin like wolves and bears."
"Well I don't have any of those so I'm sure you'll be just fine." Fluttershy opened the door and walked in. He followed behind shortly and shut the door behind him. Taking in the array of bird houses and nests, he smiled as it felt like he was still outside. Several birds perched on one of the branches overhead looked at him dangerously as if they were going to swoop down upon him.
"I-I don't know if this is a good-AHHH!" He was cut short as a white rabbit pounced on his head and began to smack him around with tiny paws.
Deekin soon realized he wasn't in any harm after the bunny had been harmlessly slapping his paws against his head for a good minute or so. He continued to stare at the bunny until Fluttershy decided to "save" him from the white menace.
"Angel! I appreciate defending my home from intruders, but he's a..." she looked at Deekin for a moment, unsure what he was. After she had plucked Angel off his head, Deekin wandered away to study a book shelf and was busy flipping through one of them. "He's a friend. And I don't appreciate you jumping on my friends like that. Now be a good little bunny and go outside to play."
Angel gave her a 'Are you serious?' look and cross his front paws defiantly.
A brief staring contest later and he found himself flung out the door with it shutting behind him.
"I'm so sorry about that Deekin. He means well, but sometimes he gets out of line." Fluttershy turned her back toward the front door and found Deekin was sitting at the edge of the couch; a book in his claws. He didn't respond to her apology since he was too busy reading. At least he's nice and quiet, she mused. She looked at him and noticed he seemed tense. "I'll make some tea. You drink tea right?"
Deekin closed the book with his thumbs, saving his spot so he could read the covering. "'Equestria: A goldmine of discovery By: Gold Compass.'" He mumbled to himself. These ponies sure have odd names. He finally realized a question was direct his way. "Hm? No, master leave us to only drink melted ice water. Nice and refreshing, but no taste." He returned to reading the book.
The book itself was a guide for anyone that wasn't a pony who wished to visit Equestria. It gave tips on various things such as how to properly greet 'somepony' in Canterlot. Or bit exchange for various types of currencies he's never seen before. The book intrigued him nonetheless as it was his only connection he had to understanding this new world. With the knowledge in this book, what could go wrong?
"'Yes?" She responded while busy preparing the proposed tea from across the room; in the kitchen. The smell of spices began to fill the house.
"Deekin find this book interesting and most useful. I hope you don't mind if I borrow for a while, do you?"
She added a brown stick into the kettle before answering him. "Go right ahead. Um, I hope you don't mind, but I added some cinnamon to the tea."
"Sin-ah-mon?" Deekin tilted his head curiously
"Cinnamon," Fluttershy repeated. "It's the bark of a tree used as a spice. I'm sure you'll enjoy-" A loud whistle pierced the serene silence as the kettle screamed out the tea was ready. It suddenly stopped when Fluttershy attended to its need of being taken off the stove-top. With a pot holder in her mouth to keep herself from being burned, she poured the tea into small cups.
Deekin was amazed at how she could so deftly handle something meant for fingers. She placed the tea set on the table in front of the couch he was sitting on and offered one of the cups with her hoof. He took it with a single boney finger and eyed the contents. The strong smell from the spices made his nose wrinkle in discomfort, but that didn't mean he found it disgusting. While the smell was foreign to him, it was almost intoxicating. Fluttershy on the other hand, thought otherwise.
"Oh no. I knew you wouldn't like it. I'm so sorry. How about I make something not as strong." She approached to take the cup away from him.
Deekin looked up at her with panic in his eyes, not wishing to worry his host. "No, no. Deekin quite alright. See? Deekin enjoys your tea." Before Fluttershy could take his cup, he emptied it like it was a shot glass. He quickly regretted it since the tea was still scalding hot. "MmmmMmmph!" He screamed in pain with the tea still in his mouth and his cheeks bulging. He didn't want to swallow and scald his entire throat, but he also didn't want to spit it out and cause a mess. So he sat there as if everything was fine, even when his face turned red as a cherry.
"Oh... my. Are you sure you're okay?" Fluttershy continued to watch in worry as tears started to form in Deekin's eyes. He quickly nodded his head in response. "A-alright. If you say so." Fluttershy helped herself to her own cup and sat down on a plush sofa to the left of Deekin.
After a long excruciating minute, the tea in Deekin's mouth cooled down enough to swallow. His mouth felt more raw than his feet after weeks of walking. Though he had to admit, even with the painful burning sensation, the tea tasted delicious. However, right now he needed something cool the pain in his mouth. "C-cewd ah geht som cald watha pwease?" Speaking widely so as not to cause any more pain to his tongue.
"Oh, of course. Wait right there." Fluttershy set her cup down and rushed to the kitchen to ease his suffering.
As he waited on the couch, he heard several light taps on the window to his left. Curiosity took over and Deekin went to investigate, his mouth still open like a panting dog. He pressed his nose against the glass like a kid window shopping a candy store. His eyes darted around to find what was causing the sound, but all he could see were some trees, flowers, and a squirrel. He lost interest in his investigation and turned around, only to see the front door shut.
Deekin blinked several times as his kobald mind tried to comprehend why would the door open and close on its own. "Just the wind, Deekin. Probably didn't close all the way. Yes, that's it." Feeling better knowing the house wasn't haunted or anything of the like, he sat back down on the sofa. His mind started to feel at ease until, behind his seat was the sound of rolling objects across the floor. Before he could look over the cushion, a familiar pink menace decided to show herself.
"Whoo! Crit on a surprise round!"
"Wha-!" Deekin felt his life flash before his eyes as colorful confetti shot in his face, causing him to fall to the floor with a grunt. The whole room seemed to spin as he desperately tried to sit up and reorient himself. Above, he saw three blurry colorful shapes looking down at him.
"I'm all up for scaring somepony Pinkie, but I think you hurt the little guy." There was a short pause before the same pony spoke up. "Is his eyes supposed to roll around like that?"
"Silly Dashie, confetti isn't harmful. As for his eyes, I can do it too. See?"
"Either way, I don't think he's going to be mighty happy being scared half to death like that."
"Well I did critically hit him..."
Deekin finally recovered his sight and found three ponies talking to each other while hovering over his prone body. The pink pony he recognized from before, while the blue and orange one he did not. Knowing how untrusting the inhabitants have been as of late, Deekin went along with his fool-proof plan.
"Don't hurt Deekin! W-what do you want from me?" He asked, louder than he wanted to.
The blue pegasus looked at him and let out a snicker. "Wow, he sounds whiny."
"Dashie!" Pinkie Pie said in shock. "That's not a very nice thing to say."
"Well he does!"
"Deekin does not sound whiny!" Deekin stated, mustering up whatever small amount of courage he could. Which deflated rather quickly. "D-Does he?" The three ponies backed off, allowing him to stand up with his tail protectively held in his hands.
Pinkie Pie decided to put matters in her own hooves and wrap one around Deekin's shoulders. "Don't listen to Rainbow, Deeky. She just has her grumpy pants on." To her relief, Deekin started to calm down and he let his tail fall to the ground. He also pointed out his name wasn't "Deeky", but Pinkie ignored his correction. "That's better Deeky. How about I introduce you to my friends?" She pointed a hoof at Rainbow Dash. "This is Rainbow Dash. Or sometimes Dashie. Or RD, but Applejack calls her that. Sometimes, like right now, I call her grumpy mumpy pants. Though Rainbow-mmmpth!"
"I think he gets it," Rainbow Dash said flatly. She pulled her hoof out from Pinkie's mouth and shook it to get the saliva off. "Yuck!"
Once the hoof left Pinkie's mouth, she ran over to Applejack to to introduce her, but she cut her off. "Pinkie, I know ya mean well, but I swear you're gonna talk his ear off." She stuck out her hoof toward Deekin to shake, but Rainbow pushed it down.
"And you want to shake his arm off."
Applejack's eyes narrowed. "What's that supposed to mean?" She yelled, butting her head against Rainbows. They both started to fight by pushing each other back with their foreheads.
"G-Girls when did you get here?" Everypony, and Deekin, turned toward Fluttershy's soft voice. She was standing in the kitchen entryway with a wide glass of water deftly balanced on her right forehoof. "While I'm happy you're all enjoying yourselves, can you please keep it down? I-If that's alright with you..." She moved past her friends and gave Deekin the much needed glass of water, which he gave a meek thank you.
Unperturbed for failing to introduce Applejack, Pinkie pulled out a box from behind her back. "Don't worry Fluttershy, we're just going to play a nice quiet game of Dungeons and Ponies! It won't be like a party at Sugarcube Corner, but It'll be fun no matter what." She looked at everypony and said in an evil voice. "And I'm the DM!" She cackled madly.
An enormous cog thousands of miles wide floated in empty white space. Hundreds of smaller cogs were around it in various sizes. Some would only move a single picometer per year, while others were spinning like tops. Standing on the cogs were creatures in various geometric shapes with humanoid limbs. From the lowest rank Monodrones, to the law enforcing pentadrones, they dotted the millions of cogs as its citizens.
In the section of Mechanus known as Regulus, 64 cogs spin in synchronized harmony. Controlled by a hierarchy, they are split into four sections. Four groups of sixteen is controlled by a lead Secundus. Within those sixteen is four more groups, each controlled by a Quarton. Finally, each individual cog is then controlled by a Octon. Among these groups, and the highest ranking modron, is Primus. A greater diety.
Primus paced back and forth, the pool of energy around his torso shifting while he looked over his large checklist. It was thicker than his enormous forearms and held all of today's activities, down to each and every thought.
Spend five minutes to read over checklist. Spend five more minutes to double-check check list. Have two minutes to admire the order of checklist...
His orderly duties were interrupted as he sensed of one of his Secundus overlords standing behind his unrolled scroll. Lowering it, he stared at the kneeling incredibly thin, tall humanoid with a long, narrow face. Only when he spoke did it dare look up.
"You dare come to me while looking over my orderly check-list, Secundus three?" He knew this conversation was going to seriously cut into his checklist admiration, but whatever his underling had to say must be important.
Its eyes opened to reveal deep-set teal eyes. "Apologies master, but this is urgent." It spoke in monotone, and with haste. "I wish to inform you of a break in order within one of the universes as of late."
Primus raised an eyebrow, but only he knew that since his giant golden mask hid his face behind a stoic expression. "A break in order? Has the legions of limbo broken loose again?"
"Nothing so dire as to have your grand intervention, master. But an odd set of events has led to a single creature to be expelled from their material realm and into the astral plane. Afterwards, he was sent to another material plane in another universe."
A scowl formed on his brow. "What to you mean 'sent'? Who or what sent him?"
"We believe an agent of chaos might be involved in this. I could sense the taint as the spell was unleashed two material days ago."
Primus said nothing and strode to the side to look out at the vast landscape of cogs and the Modron cities that laid upon them. The view always reminded him of the insides of an enormous grandfather clock. Always on time. Always precise. "This agent of chaos must be planning to use his new pawn as a ways to unbalance the very nature of chaos and order." He stood with his hands behind his back while thinking of a solution. Only one came to mind, besides the obvious of going there himself.
"We must send our own pawn to balance order in that realm. I need a new Kolyarut Inevitable crafted to hunt this creature."
"As you wish," Secundus three simply stated.
Primus didn't bother to watch his servent leave. He just stood and watched his realm work tirelessly to keep law, order, and justice across the realms. The scene brought a sense of calm to his mind, seeing everything where it should be. It was hard work making sure to follow his list down to the millisecond. To not stray from what was needed to be done.
An idea came to him and he hated for not thinking it earlier. Pulling out his scroll again, he crossed off several unworthy items on the list and scribbled a single line at the end of the lengthy parchment.
"Take time to admire Mechanus. One hour."
A pony in full-plate cautiously walked down a damp and dark stone hallway. The smell of mildew and other various smells that would make a pony wrinkle their nose was prominent in the confined space. With little help from the nearby torches, the pony lifted her helmet's visor to reveal a tan colored mare with cerulean eyes. Bits of grey-scale mane poked out of the top of the opening. She looked back toward the members of her party, which followed behind in single file.
Behind her was another pony who was busy balancing a gold coin on her nose. She wore a jesters hat, minus the bells, and a tight-fitting dress made of different patches of fabric. She had told her countless times how the bells would alarm enemies. Her coat used to be a bright pink, but their constant adventuring slowly coated it with grime.
"Oh! did you see that Dashie? I totally balanced that coin for at least a minute!" The jester-pony said excitedly.
The tan pony facehoofed, her armor shifting loudly in the stone hallway. "For the last time... Slappy. My name is not Dashie. It's Daring Do."
"Hay! What in tarnation is the holdup?" Another mare's head poked around behind Slappy. She had a orange coat and was in a lighter armor made of leather with metal studs that protected up to her chest. Strapped to her side was a simple iron longsword. "We've been wanderin down these hallways for who knows how long. When are we gonna kill this varmint and get the hay out of here?"
Daring almost forgot the entire reason they were here in from how long they're traveled this confusing place. They had learned that a pony had fled into the forbidden and abandoned western wing of the king's dungeon. One would've not worried about him as the place was ridden with dangerous beasts like poisonous spiders, cadavers, and possibly specters. However, the king believed the pony was responsible for bringing the cadavers to his castle, and needed to be dealt with quickly before they spread. The party was glad they only ran into the first two, but their target was nowhere to be seen.
Slappy turned her head toward the pony behind her, a grin on her face. "Don't worry, Cider. I've been keeping track of where we are in my head." Cider didn't show any sign of amusement or reassurance to her claim, but that didn't stop Slappy from contining anyway. "Now according to my map, this hallway should lead us either that way or that way!" She pointed down both sides of the hallway.
A collection of groaned emanated from the group, minus Slappy.
"This is all well and good, but why does Deekin have to be..." he looked at Cider and whispered. "What am I again?"
"You're a small lizard, sugarcube. It's on your player sheet." Cider looked down on the stone floor. Standing next to her leg, barely above her hoof, was a red lizard. It looked up at her with a hint of intelligence in its eyes.
"Right! Why is Deekin a small lizard?" Deekin asked.
"Because it was a joke!" Daring seethed, doing her best to keep her voice low. "There's a difference between me saying 'you look like a lizard' and 'play as a lizard' you know."
Slappy beamed at the small lizard on the ground. "Hehe. Dash called-"
"Daring!" Daring corrected futilely.
"-you a lizard!" Before the conversation could go any further, a stiff howling breeze pushed against the party from behind. Slappy tapped a hoof to her lip thoughtfully. "Huh, that's strange. There's no open windows in the castle!"
"There ain't no windows at all, sugarcube." Cider pointed out. "But that still leaves the question: Were did it come from?" A shiver ran down her spine as the hallway seemed to grow cold.
While everypony was looking forward, Daring saw something nopony else did. "Now would be a really good time to run," she whispered, pointing an armored hoof behind them.
Everypony turned around to see several spectral ponies moving through the darkness lazily, without a care. Their bodies were a transparent light-blue with pitch-dark eye-sockets. They seemed to playfully pass through the stone walls and floor with ease. Daring placed a hoof behind her to get ready to run. Unfortunately, her heavy armor made enough noise to warn every monster in the entire wing as it resonated down the hallway.
Every ghost's gaze snapped at attention toward the party ahead of them. They stared at each other for several seconds before every ghost suddenly let out a loud bellowing groan. Soon after, they began to quickly advance on the party; with obvious intent to do harm.
Cider picked up Deekin and threw him on her back before bolting down the stone hallway. The entire party ran for dear life as the swarm of ghosts followed by each hoofstep; neither gaining or losing distance. Daring, even with her heavy armor kept in stride. After passing by a cross section, they came across the familiar sight of a decaying pony body, still laying on the side of the hallway.
"Wait, I remember this body. How did we... never mind! Up ahead there should be a T-section. If we take a left, that should lead us back to the door we took to get here in the first place!" They followed her order and soon found the turn they were looking for. Just out of view in the darkness was a wooden door, and their freedom.
"We're going to make it! Huzzah!" Deekin shouted, holding onto Cider's mane for dear life as it flailed about from her running.
Without a care for the door, Daring shouldered into it as she turned the knob, sending the door flying to the side and slamming into the stone wall beside it. "Shut it!" She yelled.
Cider quickly complied and bucked the door closed, making even more ruckus in the once quiet wing. The party found themselves back in a well-lit and furnished corridor which linked the southern and western wing together. However, the party was more focused on the shut door where the ghosts were going to so easily pass through any second now.
Cider took out her blade and made sure she had a good grip on it in her teeth, while Daring had taken out her mighty warhammer. Now that they were out of the cramped hallways, she could do some real damage. Slappy and Deekin didn't have weapons. One just didn't bring one as she used all her money to eat pasteries, while the other had more to worry about. Like how to wield a weapon in the first place.
After several minutes of staring at the door, the party's gaze shifted uneasily around the room and each other. Somethign was obviously wrong. Ghosts shouldn't have a problem going through solid objects. So why were they not going through the doorway?
"Cider," Daring whispered, getting the pony's attention. She pointed her nose at the door and motioned for her to open it.
"Oh no you don't. You're the one with all the armor. You do it!"
"Full-plate still doesn't help stop a ghost's attacks, genius!" Daring retorted.
They both continued to argue until a loud slamming noise came from the doorway. It sounded and looked as if somepony was constantly bucking the door as it shuttered violently each time. Finally after the third time, it shattered to pieces. The party covered their faces to prevent splinters getting into their eyes. When the dust cleared, they all saw-
"What are you all doing?"
Everypony, and Deekin, looked up from their game to find Twilight Sparkle standing by the front door. Her eyes were squinted in suspicion as to what her friends were doing around Fluttershy's coffee table. Pieces of paper, dice, and books littered the floor. It didn't take long before her eyes widened in realization.
"Are you playing a campaign of Dungeons and Ponies without me?"
"No?" Rainbow Dash hesitantly said, hoping Twilight would take the obvious lie.
"Fluttershy, you're the DM?" Twilight walked over to the huddled group. Confusion showing on her face.
Fluttershy drooped her head so she was hiding behind the DM screen, keeping anypony from seeing her actions. "Everypony voted for me to do it after Pinkie's campaign was too... strange," she explained. "I didn't think I'd enjoy it, but it's very... um... nice.
"Yeah!" Pinkie piped up. "I never knew Fluttershy would be so great at a horror campaign!"
Twilight hovered over the contents on the table and wished she hadn't. Her eyes were assaulted with questionable choices, errors, and rule breaks everywhere. How did Rainbow Dash acquire mithral +5 full-plate at level three? Why does Pinkie not have a weapon? Why is Deekin playing as a small lizard? The sight made her dizzy and she had to pull away from it.
"Twilight, are you alright?" Fluttershy left her hiding spot as her worry for her friend overthrew her shyness. Twilight simply waved a dismissive hoof.
"I'm fine, fluttershy," Twilight reassured. Fluttershy stared for several seconds before hesitantly sitting back down. "I just came over to tell you Celestia responded to my letter about our new friend." She looked over at Deekin and began speaking directly to him. "The Princess has agreed to let you stay in Equestria for as long as you like. However, she would like to see you and has set up a private audience."
Deekin may not have been the sharpest claw in his tribe, but he knew such a title as "Princess" was important. He let a smile form, but it faded when he remembered his teeth were showing. "Royalty wishes to see... Deekin?" He squeaked out in excitement. The thought of adding royalty and important figures to his story made him a very happy bard. "Deekin accepts and will gladly see your Princess!"
Twilight smiled with amusement for his enthusiasm. "Great, because a chariot has already been sent and should arrive soon. I need to head toward the library and gather some things." She trotted toward the front door, but noticed her friends were packing up their game. "Oh! I'm sorry everypony, but Celestia said only Deekin and myself needed to be present."
"What?" Rainbow bursted in outrage, accidently dropping several dice she was collecting. "Why not?"
"Because such a large group of ponies could draw too much attention. Just Deekin and I should be enough to visit without suspicion."
"Yeah, cause flying in Equestria in a royal chariot is any better," Rainbow muttered.
Either Twilight didn't hear her and just ignored the comment, because she began to leave the cottage without comment. "Deekin, when you're done gathering your belongings wait outside. The chariot will come to pick you up." With nothing else to say, Twilight shut the door behind her.
"Well..." Pinkie began. Her voice wasn't as cheery like several moment ago, but she did her best to keep smiling. "We can always play another time, right?"
Applejack returned several books back to the floor. "Besides the fact we argued over the silliest things every couple of minutes? I wouldn't mind one bit. I had a mighty fine time."
"Yeah, I guess." Rainbow huffed, still peeved at recent events. Fluttershy only nodded an affirmative
"Maybe another time," Deekin said while doing his best to clean his area of papers. "Game takes too much effort to complete and Deekin needs to continue tale about his adventures here." With the papers in a neat stack, he stood up with his satchel and lute in each hand. Before he left out the door he turned back toward the group. "Thank you for the tea and being so nice, Fluttershy." He did a small bow and left the cottage before anypony could respond. Or notice the blush across the shy mare's face.
Primus stood inside a workshop enormous enough for him to comfortably stand in. In front of him was an elf and a equine shaped construct made of metal and stone. The elf was currently putting the last touches to its creation by applying several pieces of ceramic to help give it the shape of a pony. Though it was clearly obvious this pony wasn't of flesh and blood. In-between the ceramic plates, bronze colored servos, cogs, and pumps could be seen in constant motion.
Even as a demi-god, Primus was wise enough to both admire and fear creatures as old as the Axiomites. They were the one's who created the inevitables, along with endless dozens of other creations in mechanus. Their humanoid forms were not their 'true' form. All axiomites were actually clouds of glowing, crystalline dust that constantly swirl and congeal into complex tangles of symbols and equations. To put it in simpler terms, they're literally creatures of pure mathematical law.
"What is your function, Inevitable?" Primus looked down at the construct with an appraising eye. He had seen his Axiomite crafters create millions of these keepers of law, but they had just outdone themselves. Due to the nature of the world they would be sending their agent, an entirely different shell had to be constructed. Even with magic at the inevitable's disposal, it was impossible to disguise a humanoid shape to look equine.
The inevitable's piercing and emotionless grey eyes shifted from the floor to meet Primus's. It spoke in a clear, soft voice that sounded nothing like a creature of metal and stone. "Hello, grand Primus. My function is to find and send my target back to their original plane. So long as I still function, I will not stop to complete this task."
"Good, his programming is working." The elf said mostly to himself. He stood up, a burst of artistic coils of symbols and equations replacing his legs, before reforming into flesh a moment later. He turned his gaze to Primus. Even after such a great feat of technology, the elf held no sense of accomplishment. "Is there anything else you require of me, my lord?"
"That will be all, Axiomite." The elf simply bowed and returned to the forge and began the long task of shaping metal. Primus motioned for the inevitable to follow him, and did so without question. They left the workshop to find themselves on one of the endlessly moving cogs. He walked toward the center before about facing the construct behind him. "Thankfully your entire purpose is programmed, all I have to do is give you the order." He placed his hands behind his back as he continued. "But before I do, what is your response in the event of interference with the locals?"
"Detain or ignore," the construct responded quickly.
"And if they pose a real threat?" Primus raised a brow.
It took a moment for the construct to respond. A small whirring sound could be heard before it answered. "If the locals prove deadly or bar my way of completing the mission... they will be met with extreme force."
"Go then, but be cautious," Primus warned. "A being of chaos is present and has a hand in this. Consider what I'm about to say be a part of your programming. If you see or know the location of this creature... Kill it."
"It shall be done." The inevitable bowed low. Without another word between the two of them, the inevitable's body disappeared in the blink of an eye when it cast its plane shift spell.
The construct reappeared in a dense and pitch-dark forest, but to him his eyes saw everything in the blacks and whites of darkvision. He scanned the ground as he had sensed this was the location of a powerful plane shifting spell that reeked of chaotic magic. To the trained eye, it could see in the damp soil with two sets of tracks. One consisted of tiny clawed feet, while the other had mighty paws. Seeing that something with paws that big enough might still be around, he slowly made his way through the forest while keeping watch for more clues.
As he stepped over a protruding root, he noticed the dirt showed signs of a scuffle. Whatever beast had been chasing the small clawed creature had finally caught it. However, he noticed another set of tracks.
Hoofprints, his mind whirred in recognition. And, they were clearly showing a trail leading east. If the construct had emotions, it would be grinning in triumph. Before it could take another step, a low growl came from a bush behind him and to the left. It's head turned to face the noise and saw two beady eyes staring at it.
Keeping its distance. Not a threat to the mission... yet.
As if insulted for being considered such a way, the hiding Manticore burst through the foliage it was hiding in. A mighty paw swept to the side to smash the invader to pieces.
Correction: Escalating threat. Deal with quickly. Nonlethal.
The pony inevitable simply spun to face the threat. With a simple word, he forced the beast to his will. His calm voice echoed as the words of power left his artificial throat. "Hold!" The beast stopped mid-swipe, its claw just inches from its face. The magic paralyzed the manticore's entire body, but allowed it to still be aware and breathe; eyes still glaring at its prey with malice. The pony met its gaze that seemed to pierce into the beasts soul and the manticore's eyes shifted to terror.
With the threat out of the way, the pony continued down the path toward his mission. Uncaring of the fact it had left the beast in place for several days.
The artificial pony crashed through the thick brush and broke through the Everfree forest, Nearby denizens of the forest scattered upon seeing the strange intruder. Their chirps and chitters shouting in anger. The inevitable was greeted with green rolling hills and a vast blue sky dotted with white clouds. To its right was a small cottage near the tree line, and ahead held a small village. Bright sunlight reflected off the metallic pieces scattered within the inevitable's body, reflecting sunlight in random directions.
As if noticing the blunder of being out in the open with a disguise, it shifted and blurred to replace itself with a disguise. Its creators either didn't bother or forgot to give details of how to disguise itself since the only thing it had available were images of equines from the Abeir-Toril, or the Cradle of Life. A intriguing planet known to hold resourceful creatures called humans. It noticed more information on the subject in its data banks, but it would have to wait. It wasn't important to the mission at hand, thus it was put on lowest priority.
The inevitable decided to take the shape and color of what was called a 'Palomino'. Its imitation clockwork form was replaced with a tan coat and white mane that hung to the side of its face, covering its right peripheral vision. Its eyes however still held the cold steely color, but with its new fake skin it could now make various expressions.
Next was voices and talking. It went through several tones of voice from deep and booming to high-pitched and whiny. Finally settling with a rowdy, yet friendly voice, it felt prepared to search for the plane-traveler, it stopped itself for a moment as it forgot to put one final touch that was missing that all equines had. It was now a he.
While the cottage near the forest seemed like a good spot to start, he decided to investigate the village first. Crossing over the small stone bridge that went over a small creek, he took in the sights of the town. Most of the structures were wood-framed with thatched roofs. A fountain sat in the middle of the square with several small benches around it. Various smells permeated the air as well, but his sensors couldn't point out specifics.
He noticed several ponies talking among each other far ahead. Taking a closer look, he found his disguise having several flaws. The first thing was how colorful they were. They didn't look anything like the equines in his memory. Of course he was in a different realm all-together so he had to take the information he had with a heavy pinch of salt. The other thing that distinguished him from the others was the symbols near their flanks: A lyre, an hourglass, and three wrapped candies.
If he was going to blend in well with this world, he conceded that one of these marks was crucial to his survival, but he wasn't sure which one to choose. His best bet would be to go along with his strengths and choose a symbol that marked what he does best. Following with the idea, his rump shifted to have a magnifying glass with a small cross-hair inside it. Satisfied with the change of his new form, he comfortably trotted down the road where he last saw those ponies.
Priority, his crafted mind whirred, Question creatures for information about target. Information about geography, lifestyles, and other ways to remain undiscovered is secondary.
It didn't take long for him to spot the three ponies since they were busy lounging on a park bench ahead of him. The one with the lyre mark and teal coat was busy enjoying a snack of some sort, making long licks against the colorful treat. Several more ponies were seen walking around as well, but were too busy with their own daily lives to notice the new-comer.
One pony almost ran into him and he apologized for not paying attention to where he was going. The mare mumbled something in response that he couldn't hear before zipping out of sight. The way she acted was quite strange to him. Was it possible she knew what he was? Was he that careless to miss something about his disguise? Before he could come up with an answer, another pony to his left softly gasped.
Standing in the doorway was a light-yellow mare with a two-tone mane of red that reminded him the color of raspberries. The mare's green eyes were currently staring at him wide-open, as well as her mouth partly open. The behavior these ponies were exhibiting was confusing the disguised pony, and he planned to find out.
"Is there something wrong?" He asked curtly.
The pony seemed to snap out of her daze after he had said that. When she realized her staring, a tint of red appeared on her cheeks. "I-I'm sorry!"
Before he could say another word, the strange mare bolted down a street and out of sight. The commotion had caught the attention of the three mares around the bench, and they were staring as well. If he had any sense of feelings, it would've been in anger as he trotted over to the bench and stared back at them. "What? Why are you all staring at me like I have-"
"You're hot!" the blue pony with the hourglass cutie mark abruptly shouted, earning a confused eyebrow raise from the Palomino pony. The other two mares nudged her sides for the outburst as well. "Ow! well he is," she mumbled.
"Don't mind Minuette, she just doesn't know when to use her inside voice," the beige coated pony said. "I'm Bonbon and my friend here is Lyra." The teal pony gave a friendly wave.
Unfortunately he was took busy going through a system's check for problems. Temperature readings are nominal and no sense of increase is evident, his mind deducted.
He couldn't understand what she meant by being 'hot'. Possibly a slang term or some sort or a compliment. Yes, that would make sense as they seem to be friendly towards me. He was programmed to be perfect at conversing with others. Compared to the other various inevitable builds, he focused on socialization and deception to get close to the target. Agreeing with such an obvious gesture, he decided to return it. "Well, I think you're hot too!"
If Minuette's jaw could drop any lower, it would've hit the bench. She quickly collected herself and a shy smile showed itself. "Y-you really think so? C-cause if you do..." she trailed off, making small circles in the ground with a hoof.
Now was his chance. His compliment seemed to get her on his good side and this would help him to extract anything about the invader. "Do you mind if I ask a question? It's very important." Bonbon and Lyra tore their glares away from Minuette who was too busy dreamily looking toward the ignorant stallion. Seeing that he had their attention, he continued. "I'm looking for a creature of sorts that isn't a pony. I believe he may be staying here and I was wondering if you know anything about it."
The question faded away the jealousy from the other two mare's eyes as they contemplated his question. Bonbon spoke up first. "Oh! You must mean the dragon who lives with Twilight." She tapped a hoof to her chin in thought. "What was his name again?"
"Spike," Lyra said flatly like it was obvious. She looked toward the stallion again. "He lives with Twilight inside Golden oaks library." She pointed a hoof toward a large tree that could be seen across one of the park's hills and behind a line of short houses.
The way they calmly stated that a dragon was in the town caused him to believe the dragon was of no harm. Possibly the pet of the one called 'Twilight', he mused. Satisfied with their answer, he gave a friendly thank you before beginning to depart toward the tree house.
"Wait!" He stopped mid-stride to look back. Minuette had a desperate look on her face and one of her hooves was half-way lifted towards him. "C-can I get your name? If that's alright..."
"Certainly. it's..." thousands of names generated in his mind in several seconds, yet none seemed to fit. Several clues about this theory was the three mares before him. Their marks each acted as a solid clue to their names in some way. Acting upon this idea, his mind switched to thinking of names corresponding to the mark he had chosen. One stood out from the others and just seemed to fit. "Hidden Aim. My name is Hidden Aim."
"Hidden Aim," Minuette whispered dreamily. The other two mares rolled their eyes at her.
Seeing that he needed nothing more from the mares, Hidden briskly trotted toward the tree house before they noticed his departure. A part of him felt a desperate need to get away from the awkward acting Minuette, causing him to break into a gallop upon losing sight of the three mares. He had a bad feeling that this wouldn't be the last time they would meet.
Looking behind him every several blocks, he was relieved to see no ponies were following him. Though he ignored the one's that stared and kept going until reaching his destination. The tree house was, to his surprise, an actual tree with rooms inside. How this was obtained eluded his cog-filled mind. He walked up to the door and made three firm knocks, hoping to speak with the one named 'Twilight'. After not getting a response, he testing the doorknob to find it was unlocked, so he quickly let himself in.
"Hello?" Hidden said to get anyone's attention inside the library. Books lined the shelves neatly and he noticed they were in perfect alphabetical order. Nothing seemed out-of-place inside the room. No dust could be seen present as well. Whoever kept this source of knowledge clean and tidy might have been from Mechanus itself. If he was an actual pony, or had tear ducts for that matter, he might have shed a tear of such beauty and order.
While skimming through several volumes about magic, the sound of footsteps came from above and near the stairs.
"Oh!" A purple dragon no taller than chest height was looking at him as he walked down the stairs. "Did you knock? Sorry if I didn't hear you. I was... uh, cleaning upstairs! Yeah, sorry about that."
Even if his hearing sensors were not working, Hidden could tell he was hiding something, but he let it pass. "It's alright young dragon. I'm actually here to see Twilight."
The dragon crossed his arms in annoyance for being called 'young'. "Name's spike by the way, and sorry, but she's away doing something with some friends. Apparently a strange creature was found in the Everfree."
Hidden didn't need to do it as he could hear just fine, but he perked his ears up upon hearing about his target. "Strange creature you say?" Keeping calm and doing his best to not shake the small dragon for every ounce of information from him. "I happen to be hunting it, and I would appreciate if you could give me any information on where I can find it."
"Are you some sort of monster hunter or something?" Spike said with wide eyes. "That sounds dangerous..." Hidden simply shrugged in response. "Not to mention you don't look exactly monster hunting material."
"What do you mean?" Hidden furrowed his brow in mock annoyance. He couldn't actually feel annoyed, but felt he had to play his part.
A chuckle escaped Spike's throat. "Have you seen yourself?" Getting a head shake from Hidden, he ran back up the stairs. He returned shortly with a small mirror in his claws, which he held up for him to see.
Standing in the mirror wasn't what Hidden expected. A tan pony with a white mane hung just above his chin. It shone brightly as if pampered several minutes ago. But what really caught his attention were his eyes. The two steel colored orbs held a fierce confidence in them due to his brow always slightly furrowed in concentration. Unsuccessfully, he couldn't see the beauty in his form due to the fact he wasn't a living being to begin with. His mind wasn't programmed to know what 'beauty was'.
"Looks can be deceiving," Hidden admitted simply.
Spike lowered the mirror to look at him with a brow raised. "Right... Anyway, if you really want to find more about the creature, Twilight is taking it to Canterlot as we speak."
This was it. This was the lead he needed for his search to find the interloper. All he had to do was find this Canterlot, and then he will then search every nook and cranny for it and finish his mission. There was only one problem. "I apologize if this sounds silly, but where is Canterlot located."
Spike gave him a "are you serious?" look for a moment. "It's in the mountain-side to the north-east, cant miss it.
As soon as Spike said that, Hidden was already leaving. "You have been a great help, Spike. Farewell!" Soon as he stepped outside, he bolted down the street and began his journey toward Canterlot. Unbeknownst to him how long of a trek it would take on hoof.
Meanwhile spike stood in the doorway of the library, watching Hidden run down the street and out of sight as he went over a small hill. He closed the door and sighed.
"Probably doesn't know what a train is either," he muttered.
"We sure are up high," Deekin squeaked out. He had finally summoned up what little reservoir of courage he had to peek over the chariot. The rolling hills and forests all looked the same, and didn't help measure how far they've been traveling. If he had to guess, it felt like it has been at least half an hour since they left Ponyville. He silently wished that he had packed something more filling to eat besides the meager over-salted jerky in his sack. After not being able to eat since coming to this new world, his stomach was starting to grow restless.
"Twilight..." She gave him a confirming hum so he knew she was listening. "How much longer?"
"We should arrive in about ten minutes," she trailed off, giving a sense that she wasn't done speaking. "I suppose this would be a good time to inform you about several things before we meet the Princess. First: Always bow when you first meet. First impressions are important here. Second: Princess Celestia or just her title is fine, but never ever say her name only. It's too informal and is generally frowned upon. The third thing you need to know is that we don't eat... uh... meat. It's almost lunch time and I'm sure she will invite us to join her, so please try not to ask for it. You'll probably just scare away the servants if you do.
"I... see." Deekin frowned. Even when obvious hints stood out, it still felt disconcerting to forbid his carnivorous diet while in Equestria. The equines back in his world were herbivorous as well and the resemblance with ponies were uncanny. Minus the colorful manes and coats of course.
Deekin did his best to smile at the situation. "Good thing Deekin can still eat other things." He wrung his hand slowly. "Except carrots... Deekin hate carrots."
Twilight chuckled in response. "Have you ever met any royalty wherever you're from?"
He shook his head. "No. Deekin and tribe stayed inside masters cave most of the time; away from the awful blizzards that came and went. Sometimes master sends several kobolds out to gather or attack other gnoll tribe for supplies. Even if kobolds treated like dirt, we always respected master unless wished to be his lunch." Deekin finished with a tiny shrug.
"He would eat you for disrespecting him?" Shock evident in Twilight's voice. "May I ask who or what your master was?"
Deekin sat down with his legs tucked in and his tail curling around his clawed feet, keeping himself far away from the open back of the chariot. "Tyrmofarrar, a white dragon living with many, including mine, kobold tribes in the Nether mountains. We both worked together to survive. He scared off interlopers that enter cave, while in return we provided entertainment, food, and anything else he need." He glanced at his broken lute for a moment and sighed.
Twilight took his body language as a hint. "I'm guessing you were his entertainment?" Deekin nodded.
"Master was nice to Deekin compared to the other kobolds, leading to most of the tribe to hate Deekin. When blizzards keep us from leaving cave, he grew bored and looked for entertainment. That's when he found my talent to become a bard. In return of entertaining him he took me under his wing and shared years of knowledge and his past deeds. Maybe I could share them with you sometime, yes?"
"I'd love to," Twilight's eyes brightened. It was obvious that she would never pass up this chance to learn something. Especially when it's from another world.
Their small chat lasted long enough for the chariot to reach their destination. The landing was so smooth it took Deekin a moment to even realize there was a platform under him. Its polished marble floor jutting from the castle with golden double-doors leading inside. Deekin quickly grabbed his belongings and hopped off the chariot with Twilight taking the lead. They were half-way across the platform when the golden doors opened and a half dozen guards were marching toward them, their eyes gazing at Deekin with suspicion.
Deekin cowered at the sight. Using his lute to hide behind, he managed to strangle out something intelligible. "H-hello."
"You will be coming with us... creature," one of the guards closest to the left instructed. His firm tone held a message that was clear in Deekin's ears:
Don't do anything stupid.
Deekin could only nod and be escorted into the castle with three guards on either side. He took some comfort with Twilight staying by his side as they walked across a large courtyard. A tree sat in the middle with several benches surrounding it for any ponies who wished to rest. Three other doorways lead down other parts of the castle, making Deekin wonder how big Canterlot truly was. He imagined getting lost rather quickly if he didn't have a guide to help him.
The amount of art and sculptures at least eased his mind and left him in awe. Most them had plaques to describe what he was looking at, but the brisk pace the guards chose barely let him read a word. However, what really stunned him the most was the amount of colored glass windows there were. They told of epic battles and other such important events that he didn't now about. Nor would be able to discern from the windows since all he saw was colorful glass.
Twilight must have noticed his appreciation of such fine works because she began pointing out several of them.
"That's a bust of Starswirl the Bearded," she pointed a hoof towards a pony with a rather large wizard hat with several bells hanging at the trim. "From what I've read he's the most powerful unicorn Equestria has ever known!" She didn't miss a beat while pointed out another painting. "Over there is a painting of Celestia at the battle of Stalliongrad." The artist who created it had, what Deekin assumed was Celestia, standing on a rock outcropping with dozens of troops marching below her. The rest of the painting had a slight smudged look to it so the focus was on the Princess, but not too much to make the rest of it unrecognizable.
"Oh wow! I didn't know they-" Twilight was cut short when the guards stopped. In front of them was another pair of doors, except these were created with aesthetics in mind. Filigree ran across the entire golden frame. The left door held the form of a giant sun, while the other was a crescent moon.
"Mind what you say," one of the guards grumbled dangerously, receiving a wide-eyed head nod in return from the kobold. The doors seemed to open on their own, revealing a long hallway with white pillars on either side. White was the most prominent color in the room and everything seemed to glow as light flooded through the rows of tall tinted windows.
Deekin felt relieved when the guards left after escorting them to the throne room. They followed the red carpet leading to the throne, the only sound coming from the muffled steps of hooves and clawed feet. When they stopped several feet from the first step, Deekin stared in awe at the Princess. Her flowing mane entrancing him like an expert hypnotist.
"Deekin?" Twilight looked at him with a sour expression. He had been staring at the Princess for a while now and had forgotten to bow, making Twilight annoyed at his break of protocol. Wishing to end this silliness quickly, she faced him and shouted in his ear. "Deekin, snap out of it!"
Deekin jumped a foot in the air out of fright and fell to the floor in a pile of scaly limbs. "D-Deekin is sorry!" he apologized while standing up and looking at Twilight fearfully. She didn't say anything else, but was impatiently tapping a hoof as if expecting something from him. "What is... Oh..." He quickly got the clue and quickly bowed before Celestia. He dared not leave the position else risk Twilight yelling at him again.
"Twilight, that was completely unnecessary." Celestia stood from her throne and made her way toward the pair. "I understand the need of making a good impression, but yelling at your friend like that is very rude." She stopped in front of Deekin and raised an expecting eyebrow at Twilight.
"B-but-" Twilight started to defend herself, but simply hung her head in shame. Celestia was right. A simple nudge would've sufficed, but her anxiety and anger over Deekin failing something so simple as a bow caused her to snap. She always followed the rules of proper ettiquite whenever it came to visiting the Princesses. So when seeing Deekin not follow it after explaining it clearly to him was like a punch in the gut. "I'm sorry, Deekin. I shouldn't have yelled at you." She said while looking at the floor.
"It's alright," Deekin responded while still facing the floor as well.
Celestia nodded her head in satisfaction before returning her attention to the still bowing kobold. "Deekin was it? Why don't both of you follow me and we'll talk over supper? This way please."
Celestia lead both of them out of the throne room and through several halls while escorted by two guards. It didn't take long to reach the dining room with its long table. A white cloth was draped over the top with several unlit candles spread out across it. Silverware and plates were already set as if the servants already knew they were coming. The Princess took her usual seat at one end of the table while Deekin and Twilight chose two seats to the right of where she was sitting.
Just when they were all comfortable in their seating, three ponies appeared through a pair of swing doors beside one of the large double doors lead to a hallway. Each one stood beside each pony and gave a small book which held favorites and the 'usual orders repeat visitors chose.
Twilight asked for a simple glass of apple juice and a daisy sandwich, while Celestia chose a large caesar salad with red-wine vinaigrette for dressing.
Meanwhile, Deekin was furiously sweating over the pamphlet before him; utterly scared stiff on what to order.
There was a section meant specifically for gryphons which held various different types of meats, along with any way imaginable to have it prepared. The thought of having a large juicy streak right now, medium-rare of course, made Deekin's tongue hang out.
In a sudden poof of smoke, a smaller deekin wearing nothing but a long loincloth appeared on his shoulder. He had red bat-like wings and a demonic spiked lute was resting on his back. The small Deekin began to convince him to order something.
"You see that? Meat! Delicious juicy succulent meat. What are you waiting for?" He threw his arms toward the meat section of the pamphlet in impatient frustration.
"Don't even think about it!" Another Deekin rested on his other shoulder. This one had angelic white wings and wore a robe that matched Celestia's coat. His lute was a solid gold. "Did you not hear Twilight? She said no meat and that's exactly what you're going to do."
Evil Deekin placed his claws on his hips and shook his head. "Listen buddy I'm gonna give you three good reasons why you deserve a piece of steak." He snapped his fingers and a parchment appeared in his right claw while small red reading glasses was held in his left. He cleared his throat and read off the list with the glasses on. "Reason number one: Look at that guy," pointing his right claw at Good Deekin while still holding the paper. "He's got that silly looking dress on."
Good Deekin squinted his eyes in annoyance. "We've been through this before. It's called a robe!"
"Whatever." Evil Deekin brushed away his comment and continued by burning his glasses and parchment in flames. He then jumped off of Deekin's shoulder and landed on the dining table. "Reason number two: Look at what I can do. Haha!" He started doing handstands, which to the other two Deekin's horror, the loincloth fell.
Deekin covered his eyes in embarrassment. "I-I don't see how that is relevant to-"
"No no," Good Deekin held up a claw to interrupt him, his other tapping his own chin thoughtfully. "He's got a point."
"Is everything alright Deekin?" Celestia asked.
Both images of Deekin's conscience disappeared in poofs of smoke afterwards, leaving a very confused kobold. Deekin checked both shoulders before answering. "Yes, Deekin is fine," he replied quickly. He was relieved that Celestia didn't push it any further and instead returned to having light conversation with Twilight.
He returned to looking through the menu and settled for a potato soup with various vegetables. Even if the thought of meat was tempting, he couldn't bring himself to ignoring Twilight's request to not do it. After the servants took their menus, they bowed and, without a word, left the room.
"So Deekin," Celestia began. "While we wait for our food, why don't you tell us more about yourself? Twilight has already informed me of Discord and his plot, but that can wait until after supper since you snapped the strings already. Thank you for doing so, even when he promised you a way home."
"Y-yeah... disobeying," Deekin chuckled while fiddling with a silver fork. He might as well go along with them thinking that, rather than knowing it was an accident. He filled both of them in on how he got to Equestria and explained a little about his world, along with the strange world Discord was stuck in.
"The Astral plane," Celestia muttered, her brow furrowed in concentration.
"Huh?" Twilight's brow rose in interest. "What's the Astral plane?"
"It's another plane of existence, dear student. I'm sorry, but I cannot say anymore as it could very well disturb your view of... well... everything." She looked at Twilight with saddened eyes. "I hope you understand why I hold this information from you. It's for your own safety."
Twilight nodded. "Of course, but can you at least explain why Discord is there? I thought he was trapped as stone?"
"He is, but he isn't." Seeing a confused look on her students face, she giggled. "Sorry, what I mean is his body is still stuck here, but his spirit is there. You see, when a god is destroyed or forgotten about entirely, their spirit is sent there."
"S-so that means..." Twilight's eyes widened in fear.
Her saddened look returned. "Yes, that means even Luna and I could be sent there if my little ponies forgot about me." She gave a small comforting smile. "But I doubt that will ever happen."
The kitchen doors swung open and the three servants appeared with each dish carried with them. Once the plates were placed upon the table, the Princess and two guests began to eat while starting polite conversation. For now, it would be just a normal supper with friends.
Hidden Aim found himself on a high hill overlooking the vast green land surrounding him. He was close enough for his optics to spot the front entrance to the city of Canterlot, and notice the droves of ponies leaving and entering the grand city.
He was absolutely certain his prey was in the castle. A golden chariot with two forms upon it had zipped away from Ponyville and disappeared into the sky toward the city of Canterlot. The percentage that the one known as Twilight and his target was on that chariot was too high to not be true.
He galloped toward the city as if Tartarus was behind him. Nothing and nopony would stop him now. Even if he had to search or destroy the entire city itself, his target will not be able to hide for long.
They never do. For the Inevitables always capture what they came for.
After the enjoyable supper, Celestia requested for Twilight to depart as she wished to have a more private conversation with the guest of honor. Even with such a title, the food in Deekins stomach felt like he had eaten rocks. Private conversations usually lead to uncomfortable situations, and uncomfortable situations wasn't his cup of tea.
Unfortunately he didn't have a say in the matter. Unless being on the bad side of the ruler whos nation your currently resided in was something he was comfortable with, which he wasn't.
The room Celestia had picked to have their chat was a simple space no bigger than a room you'd find at your local inn. Though this inn was clearly for the higher-class from all the white china tea cups and arrays of treats awaiting for Deekin to gobble up. Celestia set down her cup of tea, which had took one sip for her to empty.
"I'll get straight to the point, Deekin."
Oh, Deekin already knew he was going to enjoy this conversation. Under the table, his shaking knees helped prove that.
"Discord isn't somepony who should be bargained with. He may hold up to his promises, but he always find a way to twist them in a way you would never expect." She glanced momentarily at the servant who refilled her tea and nodded a thank you. "For example: He promised to take you home when you did his deed, but did he say when? Do you see what I mean?"
Deekin rubbed the back of his neck thoughtfully. "Deekin think so. So if Deekin shouldn't trust Discord, how will he get home? Deekin like it here, but he feels..." He scrunched his muzzle for a moment as he tried to think of the word. "Disoriented?"
"I'm not surprised. You are currently the only kobold in Equestria," she said with a tinge of sympathy. "As for how you will return home, I will gladly have Canterlot's smartest ponies research the subject."
"B-But aren't you powerful enough to simply whisk Deekin away back home?" He asked, his eyes glowing with hope.
An amused smile broke on Celestia's lips. "I'm flattered, but no dear Deekin. Not even I am powerful enough to send you back to your home across the abyss. Wherever it may be." She tilted her head in curiosity. "Whatever gave you the idea that I could?"
Deekin pulled his pack so it would rest on his lap and rummaged through it. He grabbed the small book he had borrowed from Fluttershy's cottage and presented it to Celestia. She pulled it from his hands with a glow of her horn and looked at it for a moment.
She flipped through several of the pages. "Oh dear, they still publish these things?" After perusing several more pages, she magicked the book back into his hands. "Please, I already told Twilight this and I'll tell you as well. Dont believe everything books tells you. The author was... a bit over dramatic with his descriptions. However, we're going off track."
She shifted in her seat to get comfortable before continuing. "Since you will be staying in Equestria while we find a safe way for you to return home, I'd like to discuss more about you."
The sudden change of subject confused and frightened Deekin. He held his knees with his hands to stop them from knocking against each other. "W-what do you mean?"
"I want to know about your race. I'm sorry if this upsets you, but please understand that I only wish for the safety of my ponies. For this reason, I need to know."
Celestia eyes seemed to pierce his very soul as she uttered a single word.
The front entrance to Canterlot lead directly toward what appeared to be where the 'lower-class' lived. The housing resembled the same as the country-side with their thatched roofs and colorful decorated wood walls. Ponies wore their clothing out of utility and ruggedness rather than looks and impression.
Further ahead, above the colorful sea of pony manes, the housing clearly had a more defined and regal look. Even further ahead was the castle itself. A beacon of architecture that out-rivaled the entire rest of the city altogether.
Hidden quickly felt right at home. Being surrounded by the race he was disguised as made his job that much easier. No one would be able to point him out in such a dense crowd, and if he was, he could easily retreat and take the form of another. It was the perfect hiding place to blend in with the crowd. To be the shark hidden in a school of fish. The fox hiding in the snow. The-
"I said let me go!"
Even over the din of noise that was the crowd around him, the keen sensors in his ears heard the distress of a female voice. While it was not his business to intrude on others problems, nor was it his job to solve them, he was obligated to at least investigate. Every disturbance he passed up could've been a lead to his target, and that would be a shame to ignore.
Taking notice that it was coming from a nearby alley, he took a quick left and began exiting the large crowd around him. Unfortunately, his change of direction happened to go straight through the left side of the street, which held the area where ponies were leaving the city.
Ponies uttered several curses as he weaved and pushed through the river. The current was strong, but his footing was true. Plus, bumping into him resembled hitting a brick wall, which several ponies had the honor of finding out first-hoof.
Breaking free of the waters that was the main street of Canterlot. Hidden looked down the alleyway. Even at the apex of day, sunlight seemed to decline this place its warmth. While this may have unnerved any normal pony, Hidden walked forward with his usual stern expression.
His eyes flicked towards the slightest movement or sound before scanning ahead of him after discovering it only being the cause of a rodent. Windows facing the alley that he passed by had their curtains drawn. Sometimes the silhouette of a pony would go by or he could make out furniture of some sort casting its shadow.
"Somepony! Anypony! please help-"
Even when the distress became more urgent, Hidden took his time. It didn't take long as he found himself at a four-way junction. He was now behind the rows of buildings that lined the street, and could clearly see what the mare was fussing over.
A dark-teal stallion was busy wrestling with a mare, who was the one screaming for help. It was obvious it was a robbery as golden coins littered the small alley, but apparently the stallion decided to steal something else besides her purse.
This was his chance to save her. The Stallion wouldn't stand a chance as no doubt his hooves would hit him like a train going full speed. He would be rewarded and be called a hero for the rescue and possibly earn a kiss from the mare. It was what any pony dreamed they could do.
Hidden simply walked away from the sight.
It wasn't his place to interfere. He wasn't supposed to be here in the first place. While it was sad to see such a sight, he only cared for his mission. The only way it would be his problem would be...
"Well, well, what do we have here?" Another pony appeared out of the darkness behind a cart parked against the wall. He had a dull-yellow coat with his red mane cut close to bald.
... if somepony got in his way. Hidden didn't take the hint that he was in trouble, but the pony in front of him believed he was.
"I'm sorry, but you appear to be in my way."
"And Celestia and Luna control the sun and the moon. Bravo, you can point out the obvious." He walked closer, causing Hidden to step back towards the cross-street.
Obviously this stallion wasn't going to let him pass. Instead of trying to deal with him, he turned around to go down the opposite street. Only to meet another pony, this one a mare.
"Why hello there, handsome," the purple mare spoke in a seductive tone. She walked along-side him in a coy manner and eyed him up and down.
"Jasmine, stop flirting with the quarry." The stallion behind him spoke up.
Jasmine glared at the stallion. "And what are you going to do about it, Gallop?" Her eyes softened when they returned to Hidden, who stood completely still. "After all, It's been too long since I seen such a pretty face..." Her hoof gently touched his cheek and trailed down his face.
Eventually their antics caught the attention of the stallion who was struggling with the mare to his right. He dragged her over and threw her to the ground before eyeing the group before him. The mares eyes wildly looked at her surroundings before staring at Hidden with hope in her eyes as if saying: Help me.
"What the hay is going on? Do you want us to get caught?" He seethed. The way the others reacted clearly showed he was the 'boss' of this group.
"N-no, boss," Gallop and Jasmine said timidly with their heads bowed.
"Good." 'Boss' then looked at Hidden. "You picked a bad time to be a hero. Since we cant let that mouth of yours go warning the guard about us, I'm afraid you're coming with us." He nodded towards his lackeys for them to take him.
"That wouldn't be very wise... sir." Hidden stated plainly. "I have no interest to report you to the authorities nor felt the urge to stop your..." he looked at the group for a moment. "Impolite recreations. I also do not have any money to my name or valuables for you to take. So, If you will all please step away, I will gladly leave you to continue."
'Boss' laughed and shortly after, minus the mare pinned to the ground, the others began to chuckle with him. "Oh, that's too rich. You almost had me there for a moment." He wiped a tear from his eye from laughing so hard before continuing. "Weather that's the truth or not, you might be of use to us. It's rare to see somepony so... refined as you. I'm sure we'll find a purpose for you sooner or later." He took several steps back and nodded once again to the others. "Knock him out and tie him."
As the two ponies advances upon him, he let out a sigh. This was what he was hoping to avoid: confrontation. Not only did it delay him, but by interacting with these ponies, he was also changing history itself. If he had just walked by the alley and ignored the mare's cries for help, the 'boss' would've left with his prize. The others would continue watching the alleys, and everypony else would be none-the-wiser.
Yet here he was. Stuck in a situation that every inevitable wished not to face.
"As you wish."
"G-get away from me!"
Hidden hadn't moved at all, and only stared at 'boss' as he frantically scrabbled away on the ground in terror. When he was a fair distance away, he shot to his hooves and bolted away like the devil himself was after him. Shouting back at Hidden to not do the same to him.
Gallop and Jasmine were unconscious on either side of him with their eyes wide with fright. Their faces were slightly pale as if the blood was drained from their bodies, but they were still very much alive. If they had proved to be an actual threat to him, things would've been a lot bloodier.
The entire fight had only lasted several seconds as Hidden's vampiric touch quickly disabled and drained enough life from his opposition so as to cause little to no harm. The worst that could happen was them waking up several days later with a terrible migraine.
Seeing that the way was clear, Hidden began walking back towards the main street.
He turned his head to find the mare he had inadvertently rescued from the clutches of those thugs, which he never truly had the chance to look at clearly. She was a unicorn mare with a pale-yellow mane and sandy-blonde coat, which were both soiled after her tussle. Even after experiencing what he had done to the two ponies, she looked at him with awe.
"Do you have any idea who you just stopped?"
Hidden shrugged. He could care less about who or what got in his way.
"You just stopped two of the 'Canterlot bandits'! they're the largest underground organized crime group in Equestria." When Hidden still held a blank expression of uninterest, she toned her excitement down. "You... aren't from around here, are you?"
"No," he said flatly, wishing only to finish the conversation and continue on his way.
She frowned at his bluntness. "Well to put it out plainly: You're a hero you dolt! If you report this to the guard, you will get an audience with the Princess herself as well as a hefty bounty!"
Hidden's ears perked up at the words 'audience' and 'Princess'. Maybe this whole ordeal was worth it. If he could get royalty to understand his mission...
"Lead me to the guard station then, so I can... collect the bounty," he lied.
The mare rolled her eyes and motioned for him to follow, muttering something under her breath about stallions and priorities. "We can visit the nearest patrol station and they will take care of the rest." As they walked back to the main street, she decided to spark some light conversation. "So... do you have a name or should I just call you hero?"
Hidden kept his eyes ahead as he spoke. "Hidden Aim, and you?" He may be a construct, but that didn't mean he wasn't programmed to casually talk with others.
"Bright Summer," she stated proudly with a smile, which quickly disappeared when he didn't bother to notice. "So, what brings you to Canterlot? If you don't mind me asking."
It was at this moment that he clammed up. "Business."
"Business..." she mimicked, not entirely pleased with the answer. "What kind of business?" She continued to prod.
"Business that doesn't involve curious mares constantly asking questions about." He finally stared at her, and for a moment, she froze as his gaze brought a shiver up her spine.
"S-sure... let's just stick with it just being business."
After reaching the main road, and cutting across it yet again, Summer lead him toward the station where royal guards usually stayed, giving easy access to the population if there was something to report.
"Just let me do the talking. You just... stand out here and look pretty." While Summer went inside to discuss the attack on her, Hidden paced back and forth outside. It didn't take long before she came back out with a guard following close behind. "This is Hidden. He's the one who saved me and stopped the two bandits."
The unicorn guard sized him up for a moment before smiling under his helmet. "You've done Canterlot a great service, Hidden. As promised, you will be escorted to the castle for your reward. As he said this, his horn began to glow. Shortly after, Both Hidden and Summer were teleported with him toward the castle. Where not only his reward awaited, but the quarry he was soon about to meet.
"Interesting. So while you have carnivorous sets of teeth, you can safely eat a herbivorous diet?"
Deekin shifted in his seat uncomfortably with obvious redness on his face, making him look like a very scaly cherry tomato. Celestia had been asking questions pertaining to every aspect of his life; some of them the reason he was blushing furiously. The fact she had asked each question bluntly and to the point also didn't help his situation either.
"Y-yes," Deekin replied softly while slowly ringing his hands under the table. Beside him which was piled with bite-sized edibles for his tea, was reduces to only a handful of pastries Ever since the question pertaining to relationships and, to put it bluntly as Celestia did, 'how he reproduced', he had devoured them like his life depended on it.
Timid as he was, he resorted to descriptive words such as 'thingy', 'hole', and 'eggs' to get his point across. Thankfully he didn't have to go into more detail as the Princess understood.
"I am content with your answers, Deekin. I apologize for flustering you, but I had to know if you proved to be a threat to Equestria. There are certain aspects of life I'd rather keep... hidden from my subjects." With their chat over, Celestia stood up from her seat to say goodbyes when a knock came from the door behind and to the left of Deekin's seat. "It's open," she invited. Loud enough to anypony on the other side to hear clearly.
A royal guard opened the door and bowed as he spoke. "Your Highness, I have news to report about the Canterlot Bandits." Seeing the Princess look at him expectantly, he continued. "Two of them were found unconscious in a alley near the front gate after a mare who was captured by them and the rescuer reported to the nearest guard post."
It was hardly noticeable as the tension in her body relaxed after finding out it was good news.
"That is wonderful news. Be sure that the two bandits are put up for questioning soon as they awake." The guard simply nodded and added it to his mental checklist. "I assume the one who saved the day is preparing to claim the bounty the royal guard posted?"
"Yes, your Highness. He's actually at the throne room right now waiting for you as we speak."
Pleased with the guard's work, she smiled. "Thank you for the message. If there is nothing else, you may go now. You as well, Deekin," Celestia turned back to the Kobold. "If you wish, Twilight is visiting her big brother and his wife, Cadance, in the eastern wing. Since you will be staying in Equestria for a while, It wouldn't hurt to get to know everypony."
After leaving her hint that he should see Twilight, she departed. Leaving Deekin alone in the room.
Deekin watched her go while still sitting the chair. After she and the guard had left, he turned his attention to the barely touched platter on Celestia's side. The only thing she had touched were the cake desserts, leaving the fruits and veggies to be left alone.
Be a shame for that food to go to waste...
A small belch echoed through the hallway as Deekin waddled toward what he believe was the eastern wing. He didn't mean to eat every crumb on the trey, but it had been a long time since he's ever had a belly this full. The food was certainly better than salted jerky that had been sitting in his pack for who knows how long.
He had asked a guard while wandering aimlessly the eastern wing for Twilight, only to discover he had somehow ended up in the northern wing. Thankfully, the guard was nice enough to escort him toward the connecting hallway that lead to his destination.
When he finally reached the eastern wing, he soon found himself lost as he discovered this wing was where visiting royalty and the like stayed. Rows upon rows of decorated wooden doors stood before him without the smallest hint as to where Twilight was.
But Deekin didn't worry as he was certain another nice guard would help him out.
"Excuse me, uhm... sir?" Deekin wasn't sure how to tell if a pony was male or female. The armor covered up several details that made it difficult and he had the feeling that 'taking a peek' wasn't exactly smiled upon. "Do you know where I can find Twilight Sparkle? She has a purple coat and uh, a horn. Can't forget that. Oh! and she can be really boring on about stuff you have absolutely no-"
Deekin almost jumped out of his scales as he heard Twilight's voice behind him. Turning slowly around, he faced her while feeling a frog in his throat. She wasn't alone as he noticed two other ponies beside her.
Twilight trotted forward to introduce him. "Shining, Cadance, this is Deekin who I was telling you about."
The mare who, to Deekin's surprise, had a horn and wings, stepped forward with curiosity in her eyes.
"Twilight, you never told me he was so... adorable!" she squealed. Before Deekin could even know what was happening, Cadance pulled him into a hug. Deekin struggled at first, but the mix of a full belly and how soft the Princess was, it didn't take long before he started to feel sleepy.
Unfortunately, now wasn't time to nap and Cadance set him back down. He stumbled in grogginess as if he had just woken up from bed, causing Cadance to giggle.
Next was Shining Armor who decided to keep it only to a short hoofshake and a nod, which Deekin happily obliged.
"I'm taking it Celestia finished talking with you?" Deekin nodded. "Wonderful. Would you mind accompanying with us then? A pony saved somepony else from danger and is waiting in the throne room. My brother had the bright idea of recruiting him since the guard has been short of greenhorns lately. After all, It's not everyday you find a pony who puts their life on the line for another." She playfully nudged her brothers side, earning a grunt from him.
"Deekin has nothing else to do so he will gladly join you to the throne room."
With Twilight and Deekin taking the lead, all four of them made their way towards the throne room. Not knowing the disaster that was about to happen.
Hidden eyed the throne room for the fifth time since the unicorn guard had summoned him here. White pillars lined either side of the red carpet he was currently sitting upon. Guards seemed to be everywhere. Two were posted on either side of each door. Four were near the throne itself, and some could be seen flying by the strained glass windows with only their silhouette showing.
Beside him sat Bright Summer. Her eyes held more wonder in them than Hiddens. Right now she sat calmly, but several moment ago she was jumping around the room examining everything from the guards themselves to the tinted windows.
"This place is so beautiful!" she squealed.
If Hidden was embarrassed with Summer's attitude, he didn't show it.
Double doors opened to his front-right. Shortly afterwards, a majestic white pony entered the room and calmly made her way to the throne. When she was properly seated did she finally get a good look at the both of them.
"Good afternoon Hidden and Summer."
"G-good morning, your Highness," Summer stuttered nervously. She received a small smile from her, which only made her giddiness worse.
"It's an honor to meet with you, your grace." Hidden did a deep bow, doing his best to get on the Princess's good side. When he looked back up, he saw her face impassive, which was odd considering Summer received a smile from her.
"It's an honor to meet you as well, Hidden." Her voice not as motherly as before. "I want to thank you personally for saving Summer's life and stopping those bandits. It takes great courage to face against such danger, and there are few ponies who have such a traits." She nodded to one of the guards near the throne and he stepped toward the both of them. "Inside you will find your payment for your deeds. I'm sure you'll find reasonable."
The guard tossed the small pouch to Hidden, who didn't bother to grab it. Letting it fall to the ground with a clatter. Instead, he took several steps forward toward Celestia.
"I must apologize if I come across as rude, but I'm not here for the bounty."
Celestia raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "Oh? That pouch has enough bits to feed a small family for a week. However, if you refuse maybe we can agree upon a different reward?"
Hidden nodded. Thing were going perfectly. If he chose his words right, maybe he could speak to the target he was hunting for. He hoped that all of this work wasn't in vain.
"Information. I'm looking for something that isn't from here. An outsider, if you wish to call him that. I fear he might be a danger to any ponies who come across it." Do you know anything of the sort?"
"I'm sorry, but your request is refused. Please take the bits and leave."
"Your highness," Hidden did his best to keep his composure. "My entire purpose here is to find this creature before it causes any harm to your kingdom. If you know anything about-"
The double doors where Celestia had come from opened once more. He looked toward the noise and saw three ponies in a group, but that wasn't what interested him. In the small group was a sight that sent triggers in his mind to alert.
A kobold barely taller than the ponies with him looked around the room with awe in his eyes. Hidden was positive this was his target. When the kobold look at him, he was pleased to find his cover wasn't blown as it returned to admiring the room.
Perfect. All I have to do is isolate this kobold and-
"Deekin," Celestia spoke. "Run."
Before Hidden knew what or who this Deekin was, he felt an invisible force impact his chest, sending him flying across the throne room. After bouncing several times against the marble floor, he stood up as if he had simply fallen over. As he stood back up, he heard the metallic clack of metal hitting the polished stone. The blast he was hit with had wiped away his illusion, allowing all the ponies to see what he really was.
Twilight and the others gasped upon seeing him. "P-Princess, what is that!"
"Take Deekin and leave Canterlot, now!" After seeing the small group gallop safely away, she returned her attention back to the outsider. "I don't know what gave you the idea I couldn't see through your illusion, inevitable. Nor do I know who or what you plan to do with Deekin" Celestia stated angrily. "But you are no longer welcome here. Begone from my kingdom."
Her horn started to glow once more to prepare another blast.
"Or face my wrath."
Hidden dove behind one of the marble pillars as Celestia launched another blast his way. The pillar absorbed the attack, but it started to crumble shortly afterwards, forcing him to lunge back as a white chunk threatened to crush him.
The battle was not going well on his part. Already after several hits from her magic the ceramic plates covering his precise and intricate clockwork innards had small cracks showing. The constant hiss coming from his right foreleg also told him that pressure from a piston had suffered as well. The same foreleg would jerk its movements as if randomly choosing to move or not.
He had been returning fire as well with black rays shooting from his hoof as he cast the only spell known to him: Enervation ray. The spell was more likely to weaken and subdue the target than actually kill. Pressing his back against another of the white pillars, he peeked around slowly to see how his enemy was faring from his attacks.
Yep. Still looking regal and powerful as ever.
Hidden knew combat wasn't his strong suit, and that he was in a grand disadvantage for this fight. Most of the combat was left to the other inevitables such as the centaur-like Zelekhu. Who could chase down its quarry, no matter where they hid. Or the Marut, whose large fists could send shock waves of thunder and lightning to blind and deafen his opponents.
He had none of those abilities. If he was to survive to see another day, he would need to use the weapon he was built for: A silver tongue.
Steeling himself, he walked away from the pillar and into the clear where the red carpet leading to the throne rested. He was thankful she hadn't attacked again when he left himself open like this, or when he approached and stood a leap away from the first steps of the throne. Although he could see the bright light of her preparing another spell on her horn if he did something stupid.
Finally the tension and silence hanging in the room broke as Hidden spoke.
"Princess Celestia," Hidden started calmly. "I believe we got on the wrong hoof. While I may look horrifying, please believe me when I say I mean no harm to any of your subjects or yourself. I only wish to see the one known as Deekin back to his home realm." When the Princess retreated her attack, Hidden's defensive stance loosened a bit. Though she squinted her eyes with distaste.
"Your words ring false, inevitable. I've seen dozens of your kind in the past; taking away my subjects as they saw fit. I don't know what or why you do so, but they are never seen again. Seeing how brave you are to actually come this close to me, I'll make you a deal. Explain why they are doing these horrible things, and I might consider not punishing you as harshly."
Dozens have already been here? Is this place so infested with chaos as to summon my brethren?
"A fair trade," Hidden replied happily as he hid the shock from what he learned. "We are created from a realm known as Mechanus, whose very existence is to enforce order across all known realms. The reason you have spotted my crafted brethren in your realm may be the result of several of the laws we enforce being broken."
He placed a hoof on his chest as he continued. "My function as a Kolyrut focuses on those who break bargains or oaths. The Zelekhut hunt down those who evade justice, and the Marut dispatch those who evade death itself."
Celestia sounded a thoughtful hum. "So you hunt Deekin because of a bargain he broke?"
"No," Hidden stated flatly. "I was reprogrammed specifically for this mission alone. Deekin is only hunted by me because my lord believes he will cause something chaotic in nature. As to how he'll do it, I do not know. That is why he must be detained and brought back to his home realm. However, my lord never mentioned my target to be a kobold, leading me to believe he is simply a victim of circumstance." He saw the Princess lift a single brow in confusion. "Kobolds are not known to dabble in planar shifting. Meaning something else sent him here."
"Oh." She thought for several moment before something dawned in her mind. "Deekin's lute, she muttered, earning a high-pitched whir of curiosity from the inevitable. "I believe I'm beginning to understand what's going on." She smiled as everything settled into place in her mind. "This is all simply a big misunderstanding on both your lord and my own part. The only chaos known in these lands is trapped in a statue in the royal gardens, which I assure you will not be released anytime soon."
Hidden was more curious about the lute she had muttered about than the being stuck in stone in the gardens. However, it would have to wait.
"While the chances of Deekin causing untold chaos may be slim, a zero percent chance is still better. Now, will you please let me return Deekin home? If you still decline, I'll regrettably be forced to continue our one-sided battle. I'm to chase my target no matter who is in may way. Including you, Princess."
Celestia pondered the question for a moment.
"No. While he may have come here not on his own accord, that doesn't give you the right to do the same. If he enjoys himself here, he has every right to stay. Seeing as you will not back down..." her horn began to glow once more. "Prepare yourself."
"Things are going badly for inevitable three-two-seven-five, my lord."
Secundus three once again found himself kneeling in Primus's 'office'. While it may be a simple room surrounded by cogs with the centers big enough to house windows, it was the best word for it. After all, this room was the same spot he would go over whatever business was needed to maintain Mechanus.
"What is it this time, Secundus Three?" Primus droned, not sounding very eager to hear whatever bad news he had brought. Although he was in a bad mood before he showed himself through the door to his office. The recent memory of two inevitables failing to capture their target had lead to a wide-spread taint of chaos to infest the northern part of the sword coast. Threatening the city of Waterdeep.
Secundus three continued his report, unperturbed by his lord's demeanor.
"It appears to have found itself in a rather dire situation. A powerful creature known as Princess Celestia has revealed our agent and is now preventing it from continuing its appointed task."
Primus was thankful for that mask as it hid an expression of shock. "So we'll just build another to take its place," Primus responded. The answer was simple. He had close to an unlimited supply of these constructs. What would it matter if one fell? Many would gladly take their place in its stead.
"While I would agree with you in any other situation, doing so here would be unwise. Three-two-seven-five, or as he now calls himself 'Hidden Aim', already has a vast knowledge of this... Equestria," saying the realm as if a foreign word. "It would save time and effort to simply save it instead of sending another."
Primus sighed. There was a reason why he appointed him as a Secundus'. His wisdom always proved useful and held superb results. However, they didn't have the power to bring their ideas in motion. That's what he was here for.
"Very well. I will trust in your judgement, as I have done in the past." Without another word, he disappeared in a flash.
"I'm sorry it had to come to this," Celestia admitted as she stood over the inevitable. The ceramic plate across his face had split in half, revealing the right side of his face to be a swarm of intricate constantly moving parts. His once lidded right eye now only stare blankly at the ceiling; never blinking.
Her attacks would've killed any other pony. but weather it was his determination to complete his mission or his sturdy body, she couldn't figure out.
Hidden's body protested by emitting a loud whine and a spark leaping from his neck as it turned to look at her. His voice sounding more artificial than a pony.
"All living beings fight for what they believe in. While I'll never experience such a feeling, you must realize you were only defending yourself. Do not feel sorry." The only sound coming were the whir of gears as he paused for several moments. "I am defeated. What will you do now? The best course of action would be to finish me off. Any other choice of imprisonment or variations thereof will not change the task I was given. You must destroy me."
Celestia shook her head. "I cannot. To kill and destroy is a dark path, and one I will not go down again. Even if you are a machine."
Something caught her eye since her head snapped forward, and a gasp escaped her throat. Hidden followed her gaze to find out for himself what her attention was focused on. The room seemed to lose vibrancy as if all color had been drained from the room. Stranger still was that Celestia and Hidden still held color; completely untouched. He quickly realized that the effect was coming from time slowing almost to a stand-still.
The culprit behind the affect was none other than Primus himself; standing in the middle of the royal throne room with his arms crossed. Even with his golden mask, his gaze seemed to pierce through Celestia, who was returning the stare in kind. Without either of them speaking, they walked towards each other purposefully.
Hidden tried to understand what his lord was doing here. Was he here to help him? Or maybe Primus found his efforts lacking and decided to finish the job himself? None of these were the right answers as what happened next left even more to swirl through his artificial mind.
Celestia unfurled her wings and flew up toward Primus' head. When she was within reach, her hooves did their best to give a tight hug around his enormous neck.
"Primus!" she shouted happily. "It's been too long since your last visit." She released her hug and stayed floating in front of the demi-god as he simply nodded his head.
"It has, Princess, but business has left my checklists very strict these past decades. I'm risking a lot just coming here right now."
Celestia giggled and spoke in a teasing way. "Aw, is Primus scared that he has a pretty pony Princess for a friend?" She grinned as he uncomfortably cleared his throat and grunted.
"I had to make it seem I didn't know about this place or you," he admitted. "The Axiomites wouldn't hear the end of it.". His voice reverberated off the walls with his baritone voice.
Laughing once more, Celestia returned to the floor. "So what brings you here, Primus?"
Primus steeled himself since what he was about to say could very well end their friendship. "I'm here for my inevitable."
Celestia's demeanor changed drastically as her mouth parted in confusion, which quickly turned to anger as her ears pinned back. "You're the one who has been sending them?" Her voice almost to a shout. "Why?"
"Because it's my job to. I must watch over every realm to make sure they will never be overwhelmed by the touch of chaos. Keeping Discord in your garden as a statue is bad enough, and the last thing you need is a pony dabbling in plane shifting magic. Or worse, opening a portal to Limbo." The scowl Celestia made told him he had a good point.
"But why take them away? They were my subjects and could've changed-" she was interrupted as Primus raised a finger.
"The study of Limbo and chaos itself doesn't stray far from complete insanity, my dear. An inevitable will only kill if they are in a deadly situation, or their target is far from being saved. I'm sorry if none have returned. It only proves how much dangerous such a subject can be to your kind," he finished sadly.
Celestia wasn't pleased with the answer, but nodded in understanding. She decided it would be best to not focus on such a grim subject. "So what of Hidden Aim? Will you take him back?"
Primus paused. He couldn't just say he was going to allow his minion to continue. Celestia wouldn't allow it and the result would be a broken friendship that has lasted for centuries. There had to be a compromise of some sort. Something the Princess and himself could agree upon.
"Hidden will continue his hunt, but I know you will never allow such a thing. I don't want to fight you, Celestia. If there is some way I can earn your approval for him to continue unhindered, please tell me." The sly smile that appeared on Celestia's face left an unsettling rock in his chest.
"There is something you could do. I want you to change his... programming. Allow him to go near Deekin, but only as a watcher and protector. Only when Deekin believes it's his time to leave Equestria may he do so." Her wide grin receded to a friendly smile. "Do we have a deal?"
The only movement Primus made was his fingers drumming against his left forearm. "Your terms are odd, but I will not object." Unfolding his arms from his chest, he lifted and hand toward Hidden. When a bright mist grew in the palm of his hand, it shot toward the still form.
Celestia recoiled in a mix of shock and interest at what was happening. Hidden Aim's mechanical body lifted off the ground and soon was surrounded by equations that, upon solving itself, moved to the next. As quickly as the mist formed, the light-show faded, dropping the inevitable back to the floor with a loud metal clang
"It is done," Primus stated. "I must return to Mechanus and catch up on my duties. Take care... my friend." With a blinding flash, he was gone. A second later, the grey-scale room returned to its brilliant colors and hues.
"Farewell, Primus," Celestia muttered. She looked at Hidden Aim who was still on the floor, but appeared to be unconscious. Or whatever form the constructs took to act as sleeping.
With a sigh, she motioned toward two of the guards near her throne. With the time-stop spell, the guards wouldn't have known about her long talk with the demi-god. She would have to play along with being Hidden's enemy for now.
"Lock this one in a cell. I'll visit him again soon enough."
The two guards tried to lift the pony-sized body, but only managed to humiliate themselves in front of their peers. It soon became apparent that they needed twice as many guards just to drag the mechanical body to its designated cell.
"Deekin, for the last time, there aren't any monsters coming to get you."
After Celestia had ordered the three ponies and kobold to leave Canterlot, they had reached the chariot only to be stopped by a guard. He explained to them what had happened after their departure and that Celestia wished to see them at the dungeon's entrance. However, Deekin wasn't buying it. His clawed hands held the chariot in a death grip as Twilight tried to pull him away with magic.
"D-Deekin doesn't believe you!" Deekin wailed. "He seen that creature stare at him and felt his blood run colder than the blizzards back home!" His eyes boggled when he felt pressure on each finger, and found Shining Armor lifting each digit with magic.
"Deekin, stop being unreasonable," he ordered sternly. "Celestia took care of the creature and is in the dungeon away from everypony." With a tug of magic, he freed the chariot from one of Deekin's claws. Only to have it re-grip the chariot when he switched to the other claw.
Princess Cadance laughed. "Oh, you two," she said with amusement. Nudging Shining away with a bump of her nose, he gave her an odd look. "Just watch," Cadance simply said. She turned her attention to Deekin who was looking at her with a mix of fear and curiosity with what she was going to do.
Deekin watched as Cadance lifted a hoof and rubbed it over the ridges on his head and down his neck, receiving a croon from the kobold. "There's nothing to fear, Deekin," Cadance soothed. "You're in safe hooves with us." With a light tug of magic, both claws came off easily. "There we go. Was that so hard?"
"Y-Yes..." Deekin muttered. He suddenly had a feeling of vertigo as he was lifted in the air by Twilight's magic. "Wah!"
"Good, because Celestia is probably wondering what's taking us so long!" Without another word, she carried Deekin away as he struggled with the uncomfortable feeling of being held by magic. Cadance and Shining fell behind her as they made they way back towards the throne room.
Deekin looked at Cadance with a mix of sadness and betrayal, which she returned with an uneasy smile.
"Princess!" Twilight set Deekin down gently and galloped down the polished hallway toward her mentor. She nuzzled her chest to give some comfort in knowing she was alright.. "Are you okay? What happened to that creature? Are you hurt?"
Celestia returned the affection and giggled at Twilight shifting between her safety and curiosity towards the construct. "I'm fine, Twilight. As for what happened to the creature, we'll see him soon enough. This way please." Celestia opened the door and strode inside the dungeons with the others following behind. They soon found themselves in a large hallway filled with cages. Each one separated with thick stone walls. Several of the bars seemed to give off an odd glow that lit up parts of the room.
"Canterlot's dungeon is hardly used, but they are the best prison in Equestria," Celestia explained. "Each cage has magical properties if we need to contain somepony who cannot be held by normal steel." She demonstrated by tossing a pebble in a cell that made everypony's hairs stand up. When she pulled the pebble back with magic to go between the bars a loud buzz filled the room, leaving the pebble smoldering. She smiled at Twilight's shocked reaction. "Don't worry, they wont harm anypony outside the cell."
To the right was another cage with bars that was made of a strange metal. The bars had a silver sheen to it as if covered in tin-foil. "And here we have our most expensive, but strongest bars: Pure mithril."
"The bars may be, but the foundation could easily crumble," the prisoner inside stated flatly. Hidden Arm was sitting in the middle of the cage looking at the group of five in front of him. His body seemed to have repaired itself; the cracks in the ceramic not longer there. However, the right side of his face was still showing the whirring gears underneath. His glowing right eye never blinking.
"Who... are you, exactly?" Twilight questioned, her brow raised curiously. She had stepped towards the bars to get a closer look at him.
"Inevitable three-two-seven-five is my given numeral in my creation, but my fake identity is Hidden Aim. You are Twilight Sparkle, are you not?"
Twilight took a step back. "Yes. How did you know my name?"
Something made a loud clicking noise inside Hidden's body. "I visited your library back in the town known as Ponyville. Your dragon assistant was most helpful in my previous objective."
"And that was?" Shining trailed off, expecting an answer.
"Deekin was my objective." Hidden stared at the kobold, only making him cower behind Cadance. "After my target was captured he would be brought back to his home; his memory erased."
"But why? Deekin has done nothing to harm anypony here!"
"Because I am an embodiment of order, and it was my duty to see that it is maintained." His gaze pierced Twilight's, sending a shiver down her spine. "Deekin being here has changed every life he's met. He's not meant to be here. He is a trespasser, and was meant to be sent back by me."
"Wait, what do you mean was meant to be sent back?" Twilight eyed him, her curiosity returned.
Hidden looked at Celestia and she sighed. "That information, my dear student, might be too much for you to take." She looked at Twilight with a sad smile. "Just understand that his creator changed him for the better. His quest is to no longer force Deekin from Equestria. He will only take him away whenever Deekin sees fit."
Everypony turned back toward Hidden Aim and he nodded his head. "She is correct. I am still sorting through my scripts, but it is clear my objective is to only protect Deekin until he wishes to depart."
Twilight eyed him skeptically while letting out a long thoughtful hum. "Alright, but I'm only trusting you because the Princess does." She looked toward her mentor. "So what now?"
Celestia softly hummed. "There's still the issue with your lute, Deekin." She eyed the kobold who stared back with wide eyes. "We need to see to it that its powers are never used. If I may?"
Deekin nodded and unslung it from his shoulder before holding it up toward her. She lifted it up further with magic and kept it floating beside her. "Thank you." She opened Hidden's cage and motioned for him to leave. "If there is nothing else, you may all go before any of the guards suspect anything." She moved through the group to leave, but stopped several feet toward the exit. "Oh, and if you wish for another instrument. I'm sure there's a certain store you would love to visit."
After Hidden had been released and changed back into his pony form, he easily left the castle without hassle with the guards. His body was able to regenerate over time, but his face could not. Cracks and dents could be fixed, but the ceramic that had already broken were permanently damaged. Leaving the right side of his face to look like it wrestled with a lion's mouth whenever he was in disguise.
The group casually walked down the main street of Canterlot where most of the stores were located. The sun was past its apex and began its descent, meaning it was close to supper. Already several establishments could be seen bustling with business, making the streets fairly clear.
"If it makes you feel any better, the royal guards would be jealous to have a scar like that." Shining armor stated.
Hidden Aim shrugged. "My outward appearance is only to blend in with the crowd. I could care less what others think of me. So long as they don't know what I truly am."
Cadance raised her brow quizzically. "Really? The form you chose makes me think otherwise," she teased. Shining furrowed his brow and looked at her, causing a giggle to escape her. "Oh, honey. You're handsome too."
Twilight ignored the affectionate noises coming from behind her. "Anyway. We might as well find you a new instrument, Deekin. I remember a music shop being on this street when I was a filly. I wonder if they're still open."
Deekin sighed as he hung his head. "It was Deekin's favorite lute too."
When they found themselves at a cross-section Twilight spotted the familiar sign of a giant clef across the street. The building itself was white had two stories with instruments on display against the large window that took up most of the front. The entrance was past the window and up two steps leading to a simple white door. On it was a small sign that said in bright orange: Open.
"Cadance and I need to head back to the castle to... do something," Shining finished lamely. "See you Twily." Giving his little sister a hug, he began to depart.
Cadance rolled her eyes. "Goodbye Twilight, and you too Deekin." She gave both of them also a quick hug before catching up with Shining.
The two ponies and kobold ignored the stared and gasps from anypony they came across and crossed the street to enter the music shop. The doorway gave out a small ringing sounds as a bell flailed to announce them to the storekeeper; which was nowhere in sight.
To the left was a plain white wall and in front was the front desk splayed with odd trinkets that the owner kept for amusement. Behind that was a red curtain with a doorway leading to rooms in the back. To the right were shelves stocked with traditional music needs such as replacement stings, straps, or cases for travel. Along the wall past the shelves were lines of sting instruments, while in the back of the building there was a piano on display. To say the storekeeper liked to keep the place organized would be saying Rainbow dash enjoys napping.
"I'll be with you in just a minute!" A feminine voice yelled in the backrooms behind the desk.
"This place is very... orderly," Hidden pointed out. He stood at the entryway while Twilight and Deekin made their way through the shelves, looking for nothing in particular.
"I don't know if this place has a lute, but maybe we could find something to replace it?" Twilight suggested while eyeing the instruments.
Deekin grunted. "Deekin never seen these strange devices in all his life." He pulled at the string of a nearby guitar and cringed at the high-pitched twang. "Nor have any interest in playing them."
"I'm terribly sorry about the wait, what can I do for you-uh..." Twilight looked toward where the voice was coming from to find a biege earth pony staring at Deekin. Her silver eyes were wide in shock, but didn't show any fear of the kobold.
"Hello." Twilight greeted quickly to tear the storekeepers gaze away from Deekin. The last thing she needed was somepony calling the guards over him. "I'm Twilight Sparkle and my friend here is Deekin." The storekeeper returned the greeting and said her name was Capella, before asking again how she could be of assistance.
"We were wondering if you had any lutes. Deekin lost his and needs a new one."
"A lute? Your friend here has some old tastes." Capella tapped a hoof to her chin. "Sorry, I can't help-" She took notice of Hidden Aim still standing in the doorway, staring off at nothing in particular. "Actually..." she looked around the room as if there were somepony else watching, then motioned a hoof for them to follow her to the back.
The room behind the curtain had a small dining area, meaning this was her workplace and home. A small kitchen was just beside the table most likely where she ate her meals. Straight ahead were a flight of stairs to the second story of the building.
"Alright." Capella whirled in place when everypony was inside. "I'm sorry for all of this and it must look silly, but you have to trust me." Her eyes looked pleading as she said this.
Twilight nodded her head. "We understand. So, what's this all about?" Her own brow worried with what was going on.
Capella sat on her haunches and tapped her hooves together nervously. "About three days ago my sister, Octavia, went missing after a phenomenal performance at the theater not far from this building. I tried looking for her and even the guard did, but I couldn't find her anywhere. That was until I got a letter this morning." She opened a drawer and pulled out a envelope.
Twilight brought it close when Capella handed to her and opened it. "A letter?"
Dear Capella Clef
We have your sister. If you wish to see her again, leave a sack of two-hundred bits in the back dumpster near Morning glory's flower shop. Fail to do so and you'll never see your sister again. We will be watching.
"The CB? Who are they?" Twilight asked as she flipped the letter to see if she missed anything.
"The Canterlot Bandits of course." Saying as if it was obvious. "They must've taken my sister when she was returning from the theater!"
"You wish for me to rescue your sister, do you not?" Hidden stated flatly. Capella nodded her head while wiping away a tear. "No."
"What?" Capella asked, her sadness only getting worse.
"It was quite obvious," Hidden said with a shrug. "You believe I can save your sister only because of the rumors that I saved a pony from three thugs this morning. I didn't expect it to spread so quickly, and I am deeply sorry for giving you any hope that I-"
A firm slap caused him to shut up, even if it had no effect but give Capella a very sore hoof. "Do you know how many ponies stood up against them?" Hidden was actually about to give an answer, but she didn't give him a chance.
"None!" Tears streamed down her face as she yelled. "You're the first pony who ever fought back. Everypony fears what they can do, and the guards can do nothing about it because they're gone before they arrive. I thought you would be the hero I was looking for, but you're nothing but a coward!" She sobbed as she looked at the ground, the tears gathering on the shiny lacquered floor, her anger dwindling away into more sadness. "Why cant you under stand. All I want is my dear sister back."
Deekin had his own sorrowful expression as he looked at Capella. He didn't like the thought of someone losing family over another. He remembered several kobolds he believed to be friends lose their lives to either blizzards or the troll tribe in the mountains. Seeing this poor pony in the same situation reminded him of himself, but she could be helped. Hidden refusing to made him quite peeved.
"I-I'll do it."
Everypony in the room looked at Deekin and said the same word at once. "What?"
Deekin did his best to stand tall and fearless, which could possibly impress a mouse or two. "I'll save your sister!"
"Deekin," Twilight began. "These ponies sound dangerous. While I appreciate your bravery, you might get hurt. Or worse!"
For once ever since he's been here, a mischievous grin formed on Deekin's face. "You misunderstand Deekin. I am going to save her sister." He pointed a claw at Hidden. "But he's coming with me!"
Hidden Aim looked back at Capella who was quietly sobbing, then back at Deekin's clawed finger. He let out a deep sigh.
"This is all a joke, right? If it is, you sure got me. Haha."
Twilight, Deekin and Hidden sat around a table in front of a nearby diner. After Deekin so "bravely" took it upon himself to rescue Capella's sister, Twilight ushered the group out; saying she was feeling hungry and needed some fresh air to think it over.
Deekin furrowed his brow and waved a finger at Twilight. "Deekin can be many things, but he never lies about promises."
"I didn't say you lied," Twilight responded as she poked away his finger with a hoof. "I'm saying you shouldn't make promises which could get you killed."
"That will likely not happen, Twilight," Hidden pointed out matter-of-factly. "I will make sure it won't."
While Deekin was pleased with Hidden's statement, Twilight let out a long groan and bonked her head against the diner table. "You both are hopeless," she said, the table muffling her voice. As she lifted her head back up, she spotted the waiter coming over to take their order.
They had decided to dine at somewhere not too fancy, which was harder to come by than usual when in Canterlot. The diner itself didn't seem popular because of that very reason, but fancy didn't mean the food was any better.
"Greetings," the waiter in a simple black and white suit said happily, though he gave an odd look at Deekin. "What can I get the three of you this fine day?" He placed a small lamented piece of paper in front of each customer as he finished.
Twilight looked over the salad selection "Hm, how about the beansprout salad with... Balsamic vinaigrette?" The waiter nodded and took her menu.
Deekin scratched his scaly head as he read the pasta section. "Uh, I guess I'll have the", squinting at the odd word as he said it, "Cheese rav-eye-oh-lee?"
The waiter nodded once more and took Deekin's menu, then raised a brow at Hidden, who was busy looking off at something across the street. "I'm sorry, sir. Are you not hungry?"
"Yes." Hidden stated in his usual flat and cold manner. It worked just like he wanted because the waiter nodded frantically and grabbed the last menu; trotting away in a panic. Ignoring the distressed waiter, he looked back to Twilight, who glared at him for scaring him. "Sorry for that, but we're being watched."
Twilight's glare turned into a worried frown. "What? We are?" She looked around, but didn't see anypony suspicious.
"Stop. Just act normally," Hidden whispered with his hooves together; resting in front of his mouth. "I'm going to excuse myself when the food arrives. In the mean time enjoy your meal." Twilight obliged and sat silently while waiting for their food. Twilight and Deekin dared not lift their heads to look anywhere except towards the diner or the table they were sitting at.
Hidden heard the waiter and the strong smell of food coming before he even arrived. Taking that as his cue, he pardoned himself and left the two companions to enter the diner.
Twilight's eyes shifted as she watched Hidden leave with an anxious look in her eyes. "What the hay is he doing?" The waiter noticed her stare as he was placing her salad and asked if she was alright. "I'm fine. Just stomach cramps from not eating," she lied, which the waiter bought as he smiled.
"I hope you enjoy your meal then, miss." He bowed and left the two alone.
Deekin fumbled with his fork and stabbed at one of his ravioli. After devouring the helpless filled pasta, his eyes widened and immediately began shoveling the rest in with gusto. Twilight ignored his rude manners in public and poked at her salad, still curious as to what Hidden had seen.
The bandits wouldn't dare attack us in the middle of broad daylight, right? The thought calmed her mind at bit, until she noticed something unusual. Why is the street empty? Where is everypony?
She couldn't take it anymore and her curiosity got the best of her. Looking out into the street, the entire place was a ghost town. It looked like everypony had gone up and left. However, ponies could be seen far away on other streets and buildings. As if the entire street was suddenly closed off.
"Deekin... I think we should leave," her voice tinged with fear as something clearly moved in a nearby alleyway. However, the small kobold was too busy chomping on the delicious ravioli; his face had specks of cheese and sauce from eating so rudely. "Ew... gross."
"Quite." A voice spoke behind Twilight. With as gasp, she turned around to come face-to-face with a dark-teal stallion; looking down upon her with his brow furrowed enough to look like he had a unobrow.
"W-What do you want? Who are you?" Twilight asked while keeping her face as far away as she could from him, bumping into the table; almost tipping over her salad and spilling it.
The strange stallion chuckled. "Who I am isn't important. However, I know who you are... Celestia's star pupil. You chose the wrong pony to hang around with."
Twilight's eyes lit up in realization and growing fear. "Y-You're with the Canterlot Bandits, aren't you?" He didn't bother to answer. Instead, seven other ponies joined behind him. A pair of pegasai and unicorns, while the others were earth ponies. The stallion near Twilight nodded his head towards her and one of the unicorns floated a horn-sized ring forward. The others walked towards the diner entrance.
"Sorry darling, but you're coming with us. My friends will take care of your troublesome friend; don't worry," he smiled. "The guards wont find the body when they're done with him." Twilight could only watch helplessly as the magic inhibitor horn ring floated closer. She could've fought back, but she knew they would've won no matter what she did; not to mention gain an unneeded amount of pain if they decided to punish her.
When the ring was barely an inch away from her horn, sounds of a tussle came from the diner. They all looked just as one of the earth pony bandits flew out from the diner and tumbled across the street; out cold. The teal stallion, who seemed to be the boss of the group, ordered the others to retreated from the entrance and gather around Twilight's table.
"Come out, coward! We know you're in there!" The leader shouted. He had the pegasai take to the air while the unicorn's prepared spells for when Hidden appeared.
The waiter for Twilight's table appeared at the entrance carrying a tray with a piece of paper on it. One of the unicorns, being trigger-happy with his spells, fire it off before realizing it wasn't Hidden. Luckily, the unicorn's aim wasn't good and only hit a nearby potted plant; setting it on fire. "P-Please don't hurt me! I'm just here to give Miss Twilight her bill for the food!" The waiter cowered while using the metal tray as a shield to hide himself.
The leader of the bandits stabbed the unicorn who mis-fired in the ribs with a hoof. "Moron." He nodded his head to the waiter, who got up from the ground.
"T-Thank you," he muttered meekly. Trotting past the bandits he set the tray down and placed the bill in front of Twilight. "Your bill, madam."
"Thanks?" Twilight looked at the waiter and noticed the large scar across the right side of his face. "Why do you-" She didn't finish her sentance because the pony grabbed the metal tray with both hooves, whirled around, and smacked one of the unicorns in the back of the head. A loud clang rang out and caused a large dent to form in the middle of the tray, which the waiter than discarded.
With one bandit down and before the others could react, he continued his attack by tackling down a pegasus. The pegasus immediately slumped to the ground as his body turned pale. He advanced towards the leader of the group, until a spell from the other unicorn hit him; setting him on fire.
"Idiot, did you really think you could take on all eight of us?" The leader asked then began laughing. He quickly stopped when he noticed the waiter still standing; looking directly at him. His eyes boring into his like he was staring into the pit of Tartarus. His clothes quickly burned to a crisp and fell off, but his body was completely untouched.
Needless to say, the "waiter" dispatched the rest of the ponies without a problem. After the leader had been knocked unconscious, the others surrendered. Mostly out of fear after seeing him being burned alive yet still standing.
After placing the bandit bodies in a nice pile, the waiter sat down in the same spot Hidden did. He looked at the table in shame. "Apologies, Twilight. I didn't mean to cause distress with leaving you alone like that."
Twilight was still gawking at the pile of unconscious ponies next to her table, unsure of what to say. "H-Hidden? Is that you?"
The waiter lifted his head and smiled. "Yes." Twilight asked how and mentioned something about a changelings, along with how they can change forms as well.. "I'm allowed to take the form of anypony I wish. It's one of my special talents as all Kolyarut are programmed to have this ability." To emphasize his point, his form shifted like water before settling back to Hidden Aim's body. "See?"
"You're just full of surprises, huh?" Twilight said with a shake of her head. "Next you're going to tell me you can read minds and see the future."
Hidden chuckled. "Not quite, but I do plan to use these bandits to good use. Information is more powerful than others can imagine, and I believe I've made quite the catch." He leaned over to inspect the teal stallion who was the leader. "This one was responsible for the previous attack this morning."
"He did seem to be the one giving orders," Twilight said while rubbing a hoof to her chin thoughtfully. "If he's a higher rank with the bandits, any information he has would greatly help with finding the rest of them!" She shouted in realization, but then noticed she was enjoying the thought of rooting out the bandit's as well. She squinted her eyes at Hidden. "Alright, you got me, but I still don't like the idea of both of you putting yourself in danger. However, after seeing you handle eight other ponies, you clearly proved your point." She studied the pile of ponies again as if to reaffirm her statement.
"Glad to hear it. Though we will have to be more cautious. If they're so bold as to attack us in the middle of the street, we obviously have their attention."
Twilight nodded her head in agreement until a loud thump hit the table on Deekin's side. He had finally finished his meal and had placed the bowl down. His face looked like he used the ravioli for his scaly complexion rather than eat them. With a loud groan from the full belly and sated effect it gave, he opened his eyes to look at his two friends. His eyes drifted to the pile of bodies resting to his left and furrowed his brow in confusion.
"Was there something Deekin missed?"
Deekin let out a strained grunt as he rolled the last bandit into a small pile next to their table. "These ponies are heavy," he groaned as he rubbed his sore arms. Meanwhile Hidden easily flung the leader of the group on the pile while Twilight did her best to finish off her salad. Though seeing her barely pick at it, she must've lost her appetite. "So what we do now? Deekin isn't even sure where to begin," he said while looking at Hidden.
It took a moment for Hidden to respond as he simply stared at an alleyway on the other side of the street. "It's obvious these ponies are working with something much larger. If we're going to stop this, we need to stop the heart of their organization. Kill the heart, the rest will become crippled enough for the guard to handle; possibly even stop altogether."
"That still doesn't tell us where they're hiding." Twilight munched on another large piece of lettuce with her brow furrowed in thought.
"Considering the guard are unable to root them out effectively, where is somewhere they will never look?"
Twilight choked on her salad. "No," she said simply after clearing her windpipe of the offending foodstuff.
Hidden blinked in response. "No?"
"The only place guards cannot patrol safely is in the sewers. You can easily get lost, there's no light, and the chance of actually finding these bandits in that maze is one in a million! Not to mention it's just plain unsanitary," she finished with a scrunch of her muzzle.
"The sewers it is then," Hidden stated, ignoring Twilight's warnings. "Unsanitary conditions do not affect me and I can see perfectly in any light, or lack thereof, which just leaves the problem of finding them."
"Maybe we could wake one of the sleeping ponies for directions?" Deekin offered with a shrug.
"That could work," Hidden trailed off as he thought about it. "He probably wont part with such information willingly, but I'm sure I'll coerce him into telling us." Walking up to the pile of unconscious ponies he pulled one at random and set the limp body so it faced towards the street; away from Twilight, Deekin, and the pile of his comrades. "Both of you keep quiet. Actually, before you do. Could you cast a spell to wake him up? Else we'll be here all day."
Twilight groaned. "Fine." Her horn glowed for a moment before a small zap of lightning shot towards the requested target. Needless to say, the spell was effective.
"AAAHHHHH!" The bandit yelled in pain as he tried to bolt upright. However, Hidden's unnatural strength kept him from going anywhere.
Hidden kept the bandit's head looking towards him to keep his attention. "Calm down, now".
"J-Jitters? I-I mean, S-Sir? What happened? Did we win? Where's everypony else?" He tried to get up again, but was held down once more.
"Yes, we won. Everypony else is... fine. But I need you to return home post-haste. Do you remember how to get there?" Seeing the bandit nod his head, Hidden smiled in his mind. "Good. Can you repeat it to me so I know you wont get lost?" The quizzical brow furrow made him question if he broke his cover with such a question, but felt relieved when he nodded his head again.
"Of course. In the sewers and just head north until you're under Canterlot Castle. Say the password to enter the door and you're home free."
"Do you remember what the password is?"
The bandit, even with his head barely being able to move, tilted his head slightly. "You're the only one who was given the password. Nopony else besides other leaders would..." his voice trailed off as his eyes widened in realization. Followed by his eyes shutting as Hidden gripped him tightly; using his vampiric touch ability once more.
"How unfortunate." Hidden looked at Jitters who still laid on top of the pony pile. The same trick wouldn't work and he couldn't threaten to hurt any of them without backing his words with action due to his own code. Unless they proved threatening in their state, he couldn't do much besides ask nicely and hope for the best.
Meanwhile, Twilight wasn't taking this news very well by her shouting. "They're under Canterlot Castle? This is not good. We need to warn Celestia. Warn by brother. Get the entire guard on alert. We need to-"
"That will take too much time. If we warn the guard there's a good chance the bandit's will take notice. We have them unaware and I want them to stay that way when we attack."
"Right, and we're the perfect group to do it I guess?" Twilight answered with mock enthusiasm. "Against who knows how many ponies they have. We could be trotting right into a ambush!"
Hidden looked towards Deekin. "Do you not want to do this? I am bound by your will after all."
"Oh yes! Deekin wants to do good for Canterlot. A grand adventure is what Deekin has wanted since he was a little kobold." He climbed on top of the pile of ponies and clenched a bony hand in conviction; holding up in the air. "Because Deekin will become the greatest bard of all time!"
"A bard who currently doesn't even have an instrument," Twilight stated flatly. The statement caused Deekin to deflate and lose his balance; falling backwards off the pile. "Obviously I'm not going to stop either of you on your crazy adventure. When you're done, I'll be at the castle to warn Celestia and my brother about what has happened here."
"W-Wait!" Twilight looked at Deekin who was still picking himself up from the ground. "There isn't any light down there. How will Deekin see?"
"Kobolds can see clearly in complete darkness," Hidden stated towards Deekin; questioning why he was distressed over it.
"Doesn't make it any less scary only seeing in black and white," Deekin explained. "Besides, I can only see several leaps before seeing only darkness."
"I'm sure your friend here," waving a hoof at Hidden, "has a solution for that." Her temper over their antics starting to show in her voice as she walked away.
"Twilight, there's nothing harmful in helping us in our quest. If you wish, you could leave us when danger appears," Hidden suggested. "You and Deekin can sit on my back and I'll take care of everything."
Twilight stopped mid-step and looked back at him with a raised brow. "You promise?"
"I still don't understand how you made me change my mind," Twilight grumbled as she kept the light spell on her horn from fading. The light reached out several feet in the dingy tunnel both ways, leaving only what's ahead in the darkness to their imagination.
Hidden shrugged while hiding a grin that Twilight couldn't see with her sitting near his shoulders.. "T'was only a reasonable suggestion. Nothing more." Returning his focus forward, he could see in the darkness a four-way split. Seeing as they were already heading northward towards the castle, the need to change course wasn't needed.
The travel was quiet, but tense considering they believed this was bandit territory. Only the sound of Hidden wading through the shank-deep sewer water could be heard. Deekin would hum a small tune to keep the silence at bay, which calmed the party down at bit. It did little to banish the ever-present sense that somepony or thing was watching them just out of reach from her light spell. Even when Hidden assured them he didn't see anything with his own unnatural vision.
That was, until he did see something far ahead of them.
"Light out!" Hidden hissed under his breath. Twilight complied and left them in the pitch darkness; unable to see past their snouts. "We have company." Far up ahead was a flickering light with barely visible figures. Seeing a turn up ahead, he increased his pace to a trot and slipped aside before the group cut them off. To his dismay however, it was a dead end after taking several steps down the detour. "This might be a problem."
"Uh... Hidden?" Twilight said. Even if she whispered it, the fear in her voice was obvious. Behind them the light from the other group was already showing against the sewers walls. They only had several seconds before they would be seen. Pressing his side lightly against the dead end wall, he kept still as stone. While he could easily dispatch the group with ease, he wouldn't be able to do it while keeping Twilight's promise to keep her dry.
"Both of you. Do not say a word. Do not move."
An earth pony behind the group let out a groan. "Ugh, gross! I think I stepped in something."
"Don't worry," a female unicorn ahead of him spoke. "Being in this damnable sewer is an improvement to your smell. Seriously, when's the last time you've bathed?"
"Not my fault everypony else uses up what little water we have. Not to mention... you know who, having his own supply to himself."
"Show some respect," another unicorn in the middle of the group hissed. "He gave us all a chance to live. Would you rather return to scavenging for scraps just to live another day? I should shove my hoof so far up your-"
"Enough. Focus," a third unicorn spoke ahead of the group; the source of light leading the way. His ears swivled like tiny radars as he peered warily in the darkness ahead. "Did you hear something?"
"Besides the jabber mouths behind us? No," muttered the earth pony behind him.
The leader of the group tried to see in the darkness, but didn't see anything different. However, the water had small ripples crashing against the ones created by their own steps. "Somepony else is down here."
The unicorn in back snorted. "Who would be stupid enough to actually come down here? I thought the royal guard didn't patrol this part of the city?"
"That's because they don't, genius," the mare ahead of him snapped. "Somepony is playing hero."
The group continued down the tunnel. All three unicorns had spells at the ready while the Earth ponies moved ahead to protect them. When the reached a t-section with a turn leading to the right, the group split with three going straight while a unicorn and earth pony went right.
"Don't worry, hun. I'll keep you safe from any nasty beasts down here." the mare simply rolled her eyes and kept the light spell up after separating from the others.
"I've patrolled these tunnels enough to know this is a dead end. If there's somepony here, they're trapped." As soon as they neared the end of the tunnel, a shriek left her mouth and a bolt of magic shot forward. Followed by a rat fleeing the scene before another bolt could be fired.
"Shimmer! what the hay was that about? There's nopony here!"
"Are you serious, Trusty? Did you see the size of that... thing? No way rats can normally reach that size!" She took several steps back and jumped when she felt something bump against her flank.
"What is going on here? We heard the scream," The leader stated with his brow furrowed.
"N-Nothing, Sir. I thought I saw an intruder, but it was just my imagination. All clear, sir!"
"Hm... Well, the rest of the group only found rats further down so it was probably only them. Lets head back and patrol the next section of sewers."
"Yes, Sir!" The rest of the group shouted, but not loud enough for it to echo throughout the entire sewer system. Trusty looked at the end end once more before shaking his head.
Twilight gasped for breath after holding it for so long. "How... did they... not... see us?" She said between deep inhales of stank sewer air. Through her mouth of course.
"Invisibility spell," Hidden answered simply while leaving the hiding spot against the wall and slowly walking out towards the T-section. Peeking out both ways to make sure the group of bandits was gone, he continued his way north; towards the heart of the Canterlot Bandits.
Deekin tapped a quill lightly to his chin while deep in thought; his small notebook out as he took the time to continue his story. "What rhymes with 'Hiding like cowards?'"
"Okay, okay, how about..." Deekin began in a sing-song voice while sitting on the small ledge beside the river of sewage. "With great vigor he charged, toppling his quarry. Show mercy and in return discovered more of our quest." Deekin had a grin on his face as he expected good input from his two... What's the word? Allies? Buddies? Chums? Colleagues? Companions?
"Focus, Deekin," Twilight groaned, causing the inspired bard to wilt a little. She had taken a seat beside the kobold while Hidden had to take care of a single patrol. "I hope your 'quarry' is worth the trouble, Hidden. Somepony probably heard his yelling."
"Yes. We're lucky this one overheard the password for the doorway," ignoring Twilight's warning that others might have heard. "Apparently today's passwords is... uhm" he took a moment to clear his throat in disbelief. "Password." Twilight stared at him as if his coat had turned checkerboard. He returned the stare with a small shrug. "At least it's in our favor that they poorly control such information in their ranks."
Twilight shook her head. "Well, we got this far. If they do have who you're looking for at their base. Barging in directly wouldn't go well." Twilight rubbed a hoof against her cheek in thought as she further considered how to continue.
"I shouldn't have any trouble entering their base, but yes, walking off with their hostage wouldn't go well. How about we wait to see what we'll be expecting before jumping to conclusions, hm?" Recieving only a nod in agreement from Twilight, they both clambered back on him and he continued through the sewers.
One thing he noticed differently from where they started and now was how much bigger the tunnels were the closer they reached the castle. At the start, the sewers were so small that only a single pony could move through in comfort. Now Twilight could easily walk beside him, and allow some room for personal space. That was, if she wasn't so comfortable sitting on his back.
Besides the slosh of water and occasional jump from Deekin every time a rat surprised him, the entire rest of the trek was quiet. Hidden knew where to go thanks to 'asking for directions' from the pony he had come across earlier. So after taking a left turn did they finally find their destination; guarded by two very bored looking ponies. The door itself only consisted of several boards of wood with thick cloth draped around the sides to cover any small openings. Wooden boards also lifted the floor up above the sewage into a makeshift catwlk; allowing the guards at least the comfort of having dry hooves.
"Both of you stay here for a moment. I'll take care of the guards." Deekin and Twilight nodded and found a spot near the left turn so they could watch. Hidden meanwhile took the form of the female unicorn he had incapacitated not too long ago. With his disguise complete, he stepped around the turn at a brisk trot. The guards took little time to rid themselves of their tired looks.
"Halt! who go-" the guard on the left began as he charged his horn to fire a bolt of magic. His horn winked out soon afterwards as he realized who it was and he quickly stood at attention; a look on his face like he had just bitten his tongue. "Sorry ma'am! can never be too careful."
"Of course," Star Song commented nonchalantly as she approached with intent. If this was going to work without anypony on the other side of the door from hearing, neither of them needed to make a sound. The act of life draining was a lengthy one; leaving enough time for his target to at least yell or scream for help. There was a simple solution to this: You cant scream if you are without oxygen in your lungs.
"Can the both of you do something for me? It's quite simple really." The two guards only gave limp salutes as a response. "I want you both to take a deep breath for me, then exhale slowly until you're ready to take another deep breath. Easy, right?"
"That's all?" The guard to her right asked. Seeing her nod, he shrugged in confusion. "Alright, orders are orders I suppose." Both guards breathed in through their mouths for several seconds. As they began to reach the end of their exhale, Star Song stuck a forehoof out to each of them. The only sound they were able to choke out was the mix of a weak cry of pain and a whimper before collapsing on the wood floor. With the coast clear, Star Song returned to his normal form and waved Twilight and Deekin over.
"I have to say it: I cant believe that actually worked." Twilight said with a hint of surprise while prodding one of the now pale guards with a hoof. Hidden only nodded and approached the wooden door; lifting one of the cloths to peek on the other side.
Hidden blinked in surprise and whispered. "This is unexpected."
Twilight joined him by lifting a piece of cloth to peek through as well while Deekin climbed on Hidden's back to peer through Hidden's.
The room itself was big enough length-wise for somepony to yell if another stood on each end, while in width one could easily walk across in several seconds. It was dressed in strange tapestries depicting a golden bi-pedal frog-like creature standing over a crowd. Although it was hard to tell if the creature was standing over them in benevolence or tyranny. In-between each draping cloths were archways that possibly lead to more rooms, and possibly more enemies.
The amount of ponies in the room they were currently watching was expected; at least two dozen. What they weren't expect was the unintelligible chanting they were murmuring. Their bodies slowly swaying as they sat on the make-shift wood floor. Surrounding them and littering the pedestal were dim candles in small bowls, giving the place an eerie flickering glow.
"W-What are they doing?" Twilight whispered, clearly disturbed at the sight. Deekin also felt uncomfortable watching the ponies sway back and forth and let out a small whimper.
"I'm not entirely sure, but taking such acts in a secluded place like this only means it is frowned upon. Or that somepony doesn't want it to become known." His pupils shrunk as he zoomed his vision to get a clearer view on the far wall; across the crowd of ponies. On a pedestal made from wood with a chunk of stone stab on top was a grey pony with a treble clef on her backside. "Whatever they're doing, it doesn't look like something one would talk over a cup of tea. I'm assuming that's Octavia on the pedestal?"
Twilight nodded. "I caught glimpses of her the Grand Galloping Gala and Canterlot in general, but that's about it. What I really want to know is what all these ponies are doing. Does Celestia even know what is going on down here?"
"SILENCE!" A voice bellowed out in the back of the room, quieting the murmuring and three unseen eavesdroppers. A pony in ragged brown robes with the hood drawn up walked out from one of the archways near the pedestal. On his back was a jagged piece of stone in the shape of an obelisk with strange markings dug into it. When he made his way over to the pedestal, he hefted the obelisk off his back and carefully placed it beside Octavia as if it were a child. With his burden lessened he faced the crowd of ponies in front of him.
"My children! today I have communed with our golden god and he has givens us the means of salvation!" His hoof lightly touched the obelisk as if to comfort it. "The spawning stone is the key. With it we will open a portal to our savior's realm and obtain absolution, but we still need the catalyst. A pony of great magical prowess must be used to allow the rift to become open long enough to allow the great golden one in. Only then will-"
His speech stopped and he began to rub his hooves together while speaking to a pony who wasn't there. After nodding his head in a frantic motion, he turned his attention back to the crowd. "Our savior has proven his greatness once more. His vision has shown that spies are among us!" His hooves pointed over the stone slab and directly at the door. "Seize the spies, your prophet commands it!"
Deekin let out a wail of terror as the entire crowd turned around to look at the door. "D-Deekin wants to leave now. Too much adventuring for today he has!"
"Alright, stay close to me," Twilight instructed. Her horn started to glow for a teleport spell. However before she could finish it, the purple glow of her horn turned into a dark-green. Followed by any trace of magic going out with a fizzle. Twilight's eyes widened in shock. "Ah! How the hay are they able to counter-spell without direct sight?" Hidden put a hoof on her shoulder and lightly pushed her back towards the tunnels, and shifting Deekin off his back.
"Get back both of you. I promised you and Deekin would get out of here safely and I intend to do so."
"Hidden, behind us!" Several unicorns had teleported into the tunnel behind them and were preparing their own spells. Before the nearest one could fire his off, a tan blur slammed into him, knocking the unicorn unconscious.
"Keep that door closed until I can deal with these unicorns!" he shouted towards twilight, who nodded and kept the gate shut with her magic.
"Just hurry up, I don't know how long until they try to counter-spell again." The door began to shudder as ponies on the other side began to attempt to buck it open. Hidden meanwhile checked another unicorn against the sewer wall who had her horn pointed towards Twilight, cracking the stone slab she had slammed into. Another attempted to knock him out with a sleep spell, but couldn't understand why it wasn't working. By the time he had knocked out the third unicorn, the others had retreated in fear as to why Hidden wasn't begin affected by their spells.
"The unicorns have been dealt with, Twilight. Release the door."
"Gladly." Twilight was already starting to swear from the amount of kicks the door was recieving. Her eyes were in fierce concentration just to keep it from flying off the hinges; which it did so once her magic stopped channeling. Hidden ducked as the door flew over his head and tumbled down the tunnel.
"Bring them before your prophet!" the robed pony yelled over the gathered group outside the door. They charged through the gap to follow their leader's order, feeling confident with their overwhelming numbers. When they were about to charge straight into Hidden, his brow furrowed in concentration for only a second. What happened next surprised Twilight, and sent the entire group reeling with fear.
"Where the hay did that come from?"
"Get that thing away from me!"
"Prophet save us!"
The front of the group fell into a jumbled pile of pony parts while the back of the group had enough time to retreat back to the main room. While the ponies left behind cowered in fear, Hidden easily lead them into unconsciousness; leaving the other half to flee for their lives from a terror that lived only in their minds.
Deekin scratched his head while hiding behind Twilight. "D-Deekin doesn't understand. Why did they cower like how Deekin does?"
Hidden glanced back at Deekin before returning towards the doorway. "I understand how fear affects your kind," he answered simply. "You should teleport out of here while you have the chance." Twilight nodded as Deekin hopped on her back. Her horn started to glow once more, but for some reason it fizzled once more.
"I dont get it," Twilight shouted in frustration. I can feel the magic coming together, but as soon as it's about to finish it slips from my hooves. Something else is going on. If the other ponies are able to use theirs, somepony is keeping me from using mine, but it isn't a counter-spell."
"Alright, but stay close to me at all times. I dont know how long until they realize it was a trick of the mind." With that said, he peered inside the room before cautiously entering. After the frenzied retreat the candles that littered the floor had been knocked over as the pools of wax slowly began to harden. Several of the wooden boards were already trailing wisps of smoke; warning of a soon-to-be fire hazard.
Getting a closer look at the hanging tapestries, the ponies underneath the frog creature seemed to have their hooves raised in praise. Their so-called 'god' didn't look familiar to any gods he had seen or heard of. Though he knew religion and beliefs were known to reach such extremes; to the point of hurting one-self or others to appease their god. Seeing Octavia about to become one of their new, whatever they were going to do to her, helped confirm such thoughts.
Twilight ran up to Octavia when Hidden made sure nopony else was in the room. The pony only had several bruises from possibly being knocked out when she was captured. Other than that, she seemed perfectly fine.
"Can you carry her on your back, Twilight? I would, but I cant risk it if they attack again."
"Sure. Deekin, can you roll her off the slab? I'll catch her as she falls off." Deekin nodded meekly while watching the archways for any other ponies to attack. Climbing on top of the slab, he put his bony fingers under the unconcious pony's body and slowly rolled her over; landing awkwardly on Twilight. "Ack!" After shifting her to a more comfortable position near the middle, she did her best to smile under their current situation. "Okay we have her. Can we please get out of here now?"
"I... can't let you, ugh, leave." Everypony turned to find the robed pony stumbling in the room, his dust-colored coat and yellow mane revealed without the hood. One of his forehooves held his stomach as if he was sick.
"You're not in fit condition to stop us," Hidden observed.
"You're right, but also... wrong." He gasped, looking as if he would vomit at a moments notice. "I have seen him. I have heard his voice. He... He will be here soon. To punish you for your actions."
Twilight raised a brow. "That doesn't even make sense. You obviously needed me or another unicorn with lots of magic. You have no way of summoning whatever 'he' is here."
The prophet let out a low chuckle then groaned in pain. "I'll admit: This is a less favorable option, but this act of sacrifice can easily replace you." His legs buckled and hit the ground with a dull thud as his voice started to waver and fade. "Ssendam... he will be here... shortly...
Deekin wrung his long hands together nervously. "Alright. Bad pony gone and we have other pony to rescue." A small whine left his throat. "Can we go now?"
"Hm." Hidden studied the pony's body only to find no wounds of any sort. Why he acted in such a way before dying eluded him. Possibly a poison of some sort, he concluded. As he took a step over the body, a sudden twitch in one of its back legs caused him to jump back to Twilight and Deekin's side.
Shortly afterwards the pony's twitching turned to complete shaking and shuddering as if experiencing a seizure. When it ended, the pony's eyes shot open, revealing bright-gold irises. The same color of the creature depicted on the tapestries. He slowly stood up and looked at his surroundings before focusing his gaze at the group before him. Mostly keeping his gaze on Hidden.
"Interesting. What is a lone inevitable doing so far away from its home. Are you lost, being made of stone and steel?" The being's voice echoing in all three of their minds.
Hidden immediately went into a defensive stance as he glared at the resurrected pony. "Who are you, being? You reek of chaos." Seeing the pony eye Twilight and Deekin, he shifted his body to put himself in the way. The being found this amusing.
"An inevitable becoming attached to another? That's quite a first sight. Even for one as old as me." He walked towards one of the tapestries and admired it for a bit before looking back at the group. "As for who I am, I find such names so tiresome. I despise law and order, but I'm stuck having to deal with it from time to time so I'll make this brief. In my lifetime I was called many things, but for you? I am Ssendam. Lord of Insanity."
With a flick of his eyes, Hidden flew across the room and impacted the wall with such force cracks etched across the entire span of it as debris rained down on the entire room. He shortly fell to the ground with his disguise gone and wasn't moving.
Ssendam took a step towards Twilight while glaring at her. "And now that I am here. This orderly world... is MINE."
Auditory sensors rebooting.
Hidden's right ear shifted towards the sound of voices. He couldn't see anything since his eyes, along with the rest of his body, had shut down from the impact. For now he could only patiently wait and listen.
"What are you doing?" Twilight shouted in a panic. "Get away from- Let go of me! Deekin, do something!
"D-Deekin is busy in a corner at the moment! he'll get back to you when he has stopped c-cowering."
"Hidden, now would be a good time for you to- Mmmphmph!
"About time you shut her up," Ssendam growled.
"A-Apologies my lord." The sound of Twilight struggling could be heard for a moment more before it suddenly stopped. "What shall we do now?"
"We're leaving. Take the ponies and the kobold with us. I have plans for all of them. This whole world actually."
"And what of the inevitable?"
"That overrated clock can stay here to rust away for all I care," Ssendam sneered.
"By your will, my lord."
A lone rat wandered through the sewer in search of someplace safe to stay. Its previous home, a pile of garbage, had been taken by a larger rat, leaving it to wander aimlessly. It had been searching countless tunnels before coming across the holy grail of hiding spots. A pile of metal in the shape of a pony caught its attention, so it skittered across the floor to investigate.
Its small nose and whiskers wiggled while it poked around an opening near the chest to see if it was dangerous. However, before it could climb inside the mess of metal, it shifted and began moving on its own. Terrified at the sight, the rat bolted for safety from the strange moving metal monstrosity.
Hidden Aim's eyes shot open as he lifted himself back to a fighting stance; only to find himself with a fleeing sewer rat to keep him company. Candle wax had smeared over the side of his face after falling on the floor, and had already cooled back to a solid state. Several of the other candles had tipped over, causing a fire to cover a corner of the room. While anypony else would be in a state of panic, his artificial mind only focused on what had transpired before shutting down.
"I've failed..." He said it as a casual statement more than anything else. His mission to protect Deekin, and in a way Twilight, had failed; taken by an immense being of chaotic nature and his lackeys to who knows where. However, now wasn't the time for brooding about his failure, even if he didn't have the capacity to do such a thing. Feelings were not something inevitables were programmed for.
Then why do I miss their company?
Bursting forward at a full gallop and towards the long sewer tunnels, he easily found one of the metal covers leading to the streets above. Wrapping his forelegs around the metal ladder leading up, he punched the lid with a hoof; sending it flying through the air. A collection of gasps rang out as he hauled his smelly robotic body out of the hole. Somewhere to the side the cover finally hit the dirt with a loud thud. Half of it sticking out of the ground.
He found himself standing in a small circle of ponies who kept a generous amount of distance away from him. He couldn't blame them. What else would they do upon seeing a pony-like construct climb out of a sewer and smelling like a toilet? Wherever he took a step forward the empty space moved with him. For a moment he enjoyed the freedom of movement without having to worry about crowds. That was, until the royal guard decided to step in when he continued his way towards Canterlot castle.
"Halt!" Hidden's gaze flicked to the right and found a group of three royal guards approach him; one with wings while the other two earth ponies. Hidden continued onward despite the annoyed looks on the guard's faces as he started to passed them.
"I have more important matters, guard. I need to speak with Princess Celestia with due haste." He sighed inwardly when all three of them stood in his way.
"Princess Celestia doesn't allow just anypony to speak with her, and a monstrosity such as yourself doesn't even deserve to step foot in the castle. Return whatever hole you came out from before-argh!" Hidden completely ignored the guard's rant and knocked him aside; causing him to fall on top of the guard flanking him.
"Wrong choice!" the third guard growled before tackling Hidden; sending him to the ground into submission. At least, that's what he expected to happen. Hidden continued unperturbed with the guard hanging around his neck and being dragged along with him. The other two guards finally untangled themselves on the ground and joined their comrade by grabbing each of Hidden's back legs.
"The royal guard commands you to stand down!"
Princess Celestia and Luna both stood in one of the Castle's hallways, looking below through a window towards the royal garden. "Trust me sister when I say I believe you, but Discord is still inside his stone prison." Luna pointed a hoof towards the window where said prisoner still rested outside in the garden. "Are you certain you felt such a thing?"
"The tug of chaos isn't something one forgets lightly, Luna," Celestia said in worry. Albeit the tug she had felt easily rivaled that of Discord's. The thought of something more chaotic than him would give her grey hairs if she had a normal mane. "If it wasn't Discord, who could it possibly be?"
Luna shook her head slowly. "I do not know, but that alone should make us ever-vigilant in case of an-" Before she could finish her sentence, she spotted several royal guards galloping toward the both of them.
"Your Highnesses," doing a quick bow before continuing. "Somepony has breached the castle and is currently fighting their way through the throne room!" Both Princesses glanced at each other; the simple motion giving the idea that this might be related to the tug of chaos.
Luna was the first to speak; her voice holding a cold tone. "Lead the way then, guard. They will soon regret storming this castle alone."
"Y-Yes, Princess." The guards followed Luna's order back to the throne room. When they opened the door the group blinked in surprise at what rested near the doorway. A dozen royal guard were in a pony pile with something struggling underneath. To further their surprised looks, the pile heaved forward towards the Princesses before one of the guards were tossed from the pile. The head of a pony that looked built from of metal and ceramic greeted them. Both Princesses' muzzles wrinkled at the smell of the sewers.
Celestia blinked once before recognizing the voice. "Release him at once!" The guards turned to look at her in disbelief, but quickly unpeeled off their target and stood at attention to the side. Seeing the inevitable fully, she quirked an eyebrow at how downtrodden he looked. "You have a little something..." She motioned with a hoof and pointed at her right cheek.
Hidden stared for a moment before lifting a hoof to brush the cooled candle wax off his cheek. "Better?"
"Much better," she said cheerfully before putting a sharper edge in her tone. "Now, where is your disguise? You should know better than to walk among ponies in such a state." She held up a hoof to her nose to block the smell. "And why do you smell like a sewer?"
"I apologize for such a rude entrance, and for violating your sense of smell, but understand I wouldn't do this without reason." Seeing Celestia nod and Luna continue to give him a steely stare, he continued. "Twilight Sparkle, Deekin, and myself were attacked by the Canterlot Bandits around noon. I managed to protect the both of them, but also learn that their home base is located in the sewers. Hence my terrible smell."
"Then where is Twilight and Deekin?' Celestia asked. Seeing him in such a distraught state and seeing her student missing brought one idea to mind, and she didn't like it one bit. "Where is Twilight Sparkle?" She asked again with a commanding voice reserved to keep guards in line.
Hidden Aim hung his head. "When we entered I was able to defeat and frighten most of the group, but their leader sacrificed himself to summon a being of great chaos."
"Does it have anything to do with Discord?" Celestia blurted out.
"Discord? No. The one involved here is named Ssendam."
Celestia opened her mouth once more to speak, but stopped as her gaze swept over the line of guards still at attention. Clearing her throat, she nodded their way. "Please return to your posts." While the guards bowed and took their leave, Celestia returned her attention to Hidden. "This isn't the place to be talking of such things. Lets talk somewhere more private."
Hidden shook his head. "With utmost respect Celestia the time for talking ended the moment Twilight and Deekin were taken. This is a time for action to save them. I only ask for your assistance in any way you can." He tilted his head when Luna let out a guffaw.
"And, prey tell, how will we do that if we don't know the situation? Where is Twilight and this Deekin? Who is this Ssendam? We need more information to work with."
"One moment." Being an inevitable, once more, had its perks as Hidden cast a locate creature spell to find Deekin. He then felt a sudden urge to turn north when the spell took effect. "He is to the north. From how faint I can sense him he must be very far from Canterlot. As for Ssendam, my knowledge on him is very limited, but I do know he is extremely powerful."
"The North?" Celestia's eyes went downcast in thought for a moment. "But the only thing far north is the Crystal Empire. What does this... Ssendam," she spoke the name in discomfort, "plan on doing there?"
Hidden could only shrug a response. "I know not, but now I must depart for this Crystal Empire to stop him. Farewell, and prepare what you can to help." With that grim goodbye, Hidden left the throne room at a gallop, much to the annoyance of a certain Lunar Princess.
After watching Hidden leave the throne room Celestia put a thoughtful hoof near her lips. "What could be so important at the Crystal Empire?" She murmured to herself with worry in her eyes.
"Thine visage of worry isn't befitting you, Sister," Luna stated. "Perhaps it would be best to send a letter to Cadance and Shining Armor to warn them of this danger."
Celestia nodded. "Yes. That would be for the best," she said as a quill and piece of parchment popped into existence beside her. While writing down the urgent letter her mind kept drifting off towards the well-being of her student. She prayed in desperation that she would return safely. Feeling a nuzzle on her shoulder, she saw the saddened look in her sister's eyes.
"We pray as well, sister. We pray as well."
"That's quite a claim, Inevitable. Ssendam's presence has not shifted from his realm in Limbo." Primus eyed the shimmering image floating in front of him; the vast plane of Mechanus behind it. On the image it showed Hidden once more in his pony disguise. He kept at a steady pace as he ran past ponies and buildings alike towards his destination.
"It's possible he's covering his presence with the pony body he's residing in. He already has a group of cultists with him and moving somewhere north as I speak. I'm following as best as I can and plan to take a train, but I cannot defeat such a foe alone."
Primus nodded. He always knew about Ssendam and his ever-shifting realm of Limbo. He has been widely believed to be the oldest Slaad in existence, and the most powerful. However, what makes him so dangerous isn't his power, but his unpredictability. He's as likely to stab one of his own cultists in the back as he is to help them from falling down a cliff.
Probably followed by kicking them off himself.
"It seems a more forward approach is needed," Primus said with a sigh. He always preferred the subtle approach whenever dealing with other realms. Send in his agent, fix the problem, and get out while everybody is none the wiser. But sometimes a heavy fist was needed, and when those agents were called upon, the legions of chaos would learn their lesson very quickly.
"I'll send two more to assist you, but no more. The last thing I need is dealing with an angry pony princess," he stated while rubbing a thumb and forefinger against his brow. "It will only take a moment to prepare them. So when you are ready, contact me again."
"Thank you, Lord Primus. I promise you: I will not fail again."