The heavy, clanking, screech of metal armour grinding against each other.
The loud thunder of hooves against cold marble floor.
The sounds of strained breath and forced pace.
The gentle shuffle of a poorly perched object upon a thick furred back.
The soft rustle of double wings against rushing wind.
Celestia and her twin, golden armour clad guards raced down the winding, thin corridors of Canterlot Castle, all three panting heavily but all three refusing to slow their pace. Upon the back of one of the grey furred, blue eyed, golden armoured stallions rested a weary and fever fatigued human, dank, sweaty hair clinging to his brow and skin ghostly pale, body violently shaking.
The moon was still up, the stars still out, the night still Luna's precious domain but all of that, the night, the moon, the stars were blanked out and hidden by the vast, rising white marble walls of the great castle as the three ponies and one unconscious human barrelled down the slender hallways, rousing servants and waking guests with their heavy hoof-falls.
At first, after the strange and spooky creature had dead fainted, Celestia had merely looked at it with trepidation and worry, scared for herself more then it, the golden eyes frightening her like nothing before but all that had changed when the mysterious beast had begun to convulse on the floor, gurgling and jerking its limbs around frantically.
A thousand years of motherly care, safeguarding and protection had sprung into action and, when her guards had bustled into the room moments later, spears at the ready, she had swiftly asked them to pick up the “guest” and follow her to the medical area, where it could be treated for whatever ailed it.
That was where she and the two other guards were headed now, the usual brisk stamina of the guards worn down by the weight of heavy armour and the unexpected guest but still able to keep up with the speeding Princess.
Paintings of great battles, honourable families and beautiful scenery flashed by as the trio of heftily panting ponies forced themselves faster and faster down the narrow passages, nearly knocking into guests, tables, heirlooms and once, in Celestia's honest belief, her own sister Luna who had looked distinctly shocked by the three, fast-paced blurs that had rocketed past her.
They turned a sharp corner, hooves skidding along flat, white marble floors, armour crashing into armour, moaning human nearly sent flying from the back of the guard and Celestia herself nearly colliding with the wall before they all regained their balance, the guard forcefully moving the dazed, sick human into a tighter position on his back. Before them, just down the corridor stood a simple, brown, wooden door with a red cross above it, labelled below were the simple words:
Canterlot Castle Infirmary
In the blink of an eye the three were at the end of the corridor, past the table brimming with various potted plants, past the vivid painting of Celestia raising the sun, past the stained glass window depicting a ruthless battle with the Griffon Empire, white moonlight shining through the window to stain the floor with a colourful glow.
In the blink of an eye they had reached the door, just as the babbling started.
It was quiet at first, barely drawing the attention of the guard that the odd creature resided on but soon it increased in volume, making Celestia pause just as she raised a hoof to push through the door, instead whirling around to face the shrill, maddening monster with the golden eyes.
“Equines, ponies, ponies. Yes, yes, yes he said, he said. Ponies, equines...”
The creature was awake now, or at least appeared to be, both its eyes were wide open, golden orbs rolling around its sockets as if searching for something, as if yearning for something. A small, pale, twisted smile splayed across its face, insanity practically frothing forth from the small gesture, making Celestia's whole form shudder at the abysmal sight of the poor beast. Sweat still clung heavily to its body, soaking into the unfortunate but silent guard, hands clenching rapidly and hair whipping around its head as it turned rapidly to observe the corridor, neck creaking.
“Ponies, horse, wings, horn, golden, shiny, shiny golden eyes. Shiny...shiny...golden..eyes”
The creatures voice diminished towards the end, horrible humour, shrill tones and insane voice leaking outwards as the noise fell silent, the complexion of the beast now bent on one single, spinning, catastrophic, devilish, sickening emotion.
Cold, hard fear.
That same voice spoke up, ushered from the mouth of the now terrified creature, high tones silent and replaced by deeper ones, eyes no longer manic but pitched straight down the hallway as if it could see something they could not, smile replaced by a grizzled slash of lips.
“Eyes, burning, teeth, snapping. Pain, fear, discord, cha-”
She could take no more, less it burn her from the inside out. The horrid, high now deep, mirth filled now horrified, insane now terrified voice was drilling into her soul, tearing beneath her skin and screeching in her heart.
Worry and fear pitched a harsh battle within her soul, intense worry for the abused, destroyed and broken creature oozing out of her, telling- no- demanding her to help, to comfort and to soothe. It hurt her, pierced her deeply to see any creature in such a way, torn from the inside out because of the sheer, undeniable fact that there was simply nothing she could do to help.
Physical injuries she could heal and, whilst this creature had many, they were not the main cause of alarm here. It was the look in its eyes, of dark terrors and something shadowed and monstrous, something that had broken it down.
Then there was the fear that, once flattened, had sprung up again with the merest mention of his name, the merest tell-tale signs of something dark and hideous. The word was not merely used to describe him, the mismatched God of Chaos but he had adopted it as his own long, long ago, the name fitting him perfectly like a noose on a criminal.
Celestia could not remember the last time she had felt fear like this. When he had broken out last she had convinced herself that what she saw of him had not changed, that he was still only the mischievous creature she wanted him to be and even when he had been imprisoned and she had seen how he truly was, a shell of the creature she once saw, she had not worried herself too much because how could he do anything, trapped in stone?
But now, now something was happening, now fear was taking form and reason was fleeing. Celestia was scared for her subjects and herself, a dangerous mixture.
She silenced the mumbling, feared creature by simply smashing the door open with one of her front hooves, the wizened wood slamming into the white marble with a force that seemed to shake the very foundations of the castle.
The infirmary was quiet, not a single soul living or even laying in its depths apart from one tired, weary looking unicorn sitting at the back of the long room reading a book, beds lining the sides and curtains hiding each would-be patient.
A faint yellow lamp cast soft tufts of orange and red light around the room, throwing shadows along the numerous beds and igniting the area around it with a blazing display of illumination. The unicorn had since moved up, startled from his book by the sudden noise of the door smashing open, hooves clopping along the floor briskly, eyes wide as he took in the trio of ponies, eyes locked onto Celestia's with worry, both for her safety and for his job.
The guards and the Solar Princess moved forward to meet the doctor in the middle of the infirmary, lights flickering along the edges of the beige coated, yellow maned, green eyed and bandage etched cutie mark stallion doctor. Soon enough the four met in the centre of the room, rather swiftly, the sound of their hooves ringing around the empty, acoustic room for a few seconds.
The stallion moved forward to check the ruler of Equestria, immediately deducing that the source of the arrival of the three was over the health of the Princess before his gaze was sent towards another creature that had remained hidden amidst the swirling, light cast shadows on the back of one of the guards.
The beast was moaning and muttering to itself, eyes wide open yet staring into nothingness, sweat dripping down its forehead.
Its golden eyed gaze locked with the emerald orbs of the doctor pony and in those eyes he saw such pain, grief, madness and horror, untold tales of desecrations and deeds before the strange creature whispered to him, causing the stallion to lean forward to catch the faint words, both scared over the strange beast and excited over its arrival.
Its voice was harsh and barren of any emotion other then fear and pain, the tinges of such inexcusable feelings making the stallion shudder.
Jonathan could feel only pain and fear.
Swirling tendrils of agony.
Piercing shards of terror.
The damp smell of sweat.
The metallic taste of blood on his lips.
The convulsing of his body.
Worst of all though, worst of all were the visions.
He would snap awake for the merest of seconds, eyes wide and alert, hands clasped tightly to the sheets of a mysterious bed, searching the room he was in in panic and terror before his eyes would rest on the bottom of the bed and his gaze would falter and shatter.
It would sit there, the monster named Discord. It would lay itself down at his feet and it would look at him, smirking and laughing, the sound choking the human, sending him into dizzying spirals of fear. The monster, the chaotic demon, would move forward until it rested on his chest, terrible pain and smothered breath licking across the humans body, talons slicing into his skin and eyes roaming his soul before it would thrust its head into his own, golden eyes locking with golden eyes, tortured soul locking with evil intentions.
He would wake writhing and screaming, panting and choking on sobs before his eyes would close again, dragged into another wretched sleep.
Vaguely he knew what was going on. Past the horrible burning sensation of his head, past the pounding in his mind, past the swelled scars and bruises, past the fear, the insanity, the depression and the anger was a single word that described his condition, his madness and his crippling disease.
He would see things, horrible visions of laughing gods, sickly demons, a purple eyed, winged watcher, masses and huddles of twisted, warped guests and worst of all the creature at the end of his bed.
The fever burnt his mind, scorched his skin. The pain and the fear only rallied the sickness to greater lengths, extending the illness for hours and days, time ceased to matter. The only sensation was the horrible panic of needing to escape, to end the torture he was going through.
He prayed for a death that would never come.
He was soaked in sweat and blood and urine, tossing and turning, opening wounds, feeling the blood drip down his body before he was yanked back into his nightmares, before those golden eyes would settle on him once again.
Fear clutched his heart, pain cleansed his body.
His world was meaningless, his mind corrupted and afflicted by the demon.
He recognised aspects of his physical body, of the strange animalistic doctor that would visit him, no knowledge of when or why, time and meaning lost to him. Another would visit him also, the purple eyed, winged creature that burnt a strong gaze into his soul until he would whimper and sink back into the realms of night terrors.
And every second that ticked by, every time he would scream and sob, every time he would bleed and panic it would be accompanied by a single, reminiscent sound.
He opened his eyes to be met by the blinding, strobing flashes of deep yellow and orange light that burnt into his new twin pools of gold, causing great floods of tears to stream from his eyes but he didn't care. He could feel it this time, sweet relief sweeping through his body as he sighed a deep sigh. He was awake at last, he was free.
The fever was purified, the pain satisfied with its job, the delirium full and well fed, leaving to find a new victim.
Sweat clung to his body, cold and greasy, dampening himself and the white hospital-esque bed with the large, concealing green curtains and white, crack-lined walls. Blood mingled with the sweat like companions, pink and crimson smears dotting his body, trailing from various yellowing, gauze wrapped slices. Great splotchy black, blue and green bruises coated his body like a second skin, nearly camouflaging him with the green, crisp curtain. It hurt to breathe, to move but none of that mattered any more. He was free, he was alive and awake at long last.
His skin no longer burned with the smouldering fever and insanity inflicting delirium. His hair was plastered to his scalp however, great, greasy, black tangles knotted and twisted to shroud his eyes in a shadowed veil. His eyes ached and burned, sweat trickling down to meld with the watering tears of both happiness and discomfort, blood lines stretching across their golden expanse, indicating a spoiled sleep.
The sheets were soft and warm on him, not burning his skin nor freezing his soft body, instead wrapping itself around him, pulled closer by the lines of sweat. Dimly, he realised he was naked beneath the covers, his bare body touching the silky texture of the duvet but at the moment it did not matter, nothing mattered truly except the encompassing relief and joy at beating the illness.
Exhaustion had him wrapped around its finger though, his limbs felt leaden and worn, his mind sluggish and sore, his body tired and beaten but very much alive and kicking.
His legs and arms trembled, not from fear, nor from pain but from a deep lingering consumption of his body, an unsettling feeling of weariness that threatened to blacken his vision and dull his senses beyond use.
He tried to move, feeling his muscles tighten and knot together, feeling his breath hitch as the abominable pain from his lacerations and bruises ripped through his body, halting his movements within seconds, forcing him to flop back down onto the bed, head sinking into the pillow and breath escaping in an aggravated but tired sigh.
His body yearned, begged, pleaded to sleep but Jonathan wouldn't let it, couldn't let it, still fearing that if he were to sleep, to dream then he would be visited by those nightmares once more. He opted to take in his surroundings with fatigued but twinkling eyes, his gaze resting on his new abode.
The bed he was laying on was a deep snow colour that was mingled with darker spots of deep grey sweat and deep fire red blood. It still seemed crisp though, pleasant to the touch, not crusted by dried bodily liquids. The pillow his head was laying on seemed to be a dark red creation, plush and smooth, filled with soft feathers indicated by the small, almost unnoticeable scratch in the side of it that showed a lack of stuffing. The pillow itself seemed to be embroidered with golden lace to create swirling patterns that folded out of the view of the curious humans eyes.
The green curtain remained as he had viewed it before, pristine and without fault. The marble walls that were just visible to the left and right of him were likewise impeccable apart from the odd, black crack that stretched along their surface to create a tear in the skin of the wall. The floor of the sealed off area was one of orange speckled tiles that danced and dazzled the floor, creating much needed colour that reflected the sunlight into the curtain ensconce room.
Past the smell of blood, sweat and other fluids was the high, nose tingling stench of disinfectants, the peculiar smell almost, almost washing away the other three but failing at the last hurdle. The room past the sheltered area was completely silent, either there was nothing out there or someone was doing a very good job at remaining quiet.
Jonathan sighed just once, eyes fluttering closed before bolting open, body intent on falling asleep but mind battling to stay awake. Memories bubbled up around him, memories that he should have cared about and, were it not for the deep exhaustion, he would surely have shuddered and sobbed over.
Memories of golden eyed monsters, of terrible schemes, twisted plans, bloody violence, of giftedly produced burdens and a seductive but malicious voice.
Memories of waking to find an alabaster horse- or was it pony? -with wings and a horn staring intently at him, not allowing him to look away. Memories of that shrieking wind and roaring voices that poured into his mind, twisting his sight and his ideals. At the back of his mind he could remember being carried, jostled and cared for but by whom he had no idea, time had simply stopped, as had sight and sound, replaced by chilling fear and condescending pain.
Still, he could not dabble on those memories, his body and now even his mind beckoned him to sleep, which he did, though with great nervousness.
Waking and drifting on and off for what could have been hours or could have been days, all Jonathan knew was that no one had come to visit him, no one had come to see him or care for him. He would sleep a wretched sleep, waking panting but unable to remember why and then, just as quickly, he would fall back into sleep, not out of fever induced weariness but out of a deeper exhaustion that sprouts from a hard earned victory.
He woke with a loud, startled yelp out of a deep fear that he could not place, his eyes sore and bagged, his mind sluggish but awakening, his limbs tired but no longer weighed down quite as heavily, his skin free of fresh oiled sweat, instead coated in the flaking form of the liquid. He did not feel well but nor did he feel ill. No, he felt the beginnings of rejuvenation coming on, the start of a recovery that would herald joys and happiness.
It was a noise that had awoken him this time, a faint, heavy footstep like sound that constantly ran around the infirmary building, for it could not be anything but a hospital room. It sounded very much like the rattle of boots on tiles except this noise came in clumps of four, not in huddles of two.
At the surprised, shocked sound that had erupted from Jonathan's mouth, the faint foot-falls had collapsed silent, echoing around the room but producing no fresh noise like the smell of bread that was once freshly baked but now sat upon the shelves as second best.
Jonathan was nervous, most certainly, most indefinitely nervous but stronger then that was his curiosity, a deep feeling of wanting to know more, of not merely living off of suspicions. He wanted to know how he was here, who had helped him. He wanted to know more of the dark God and the purple eyed watcher. He simply wanted an explanation and it was this desire that lent him the strength and the courage to speak up in a raw, rasping voice, throat untouched by water for a long time.
A sharp intake of astounded breath signalled the truth behind the bruised, battered humans deduction. There was something else in the room with him, something that may help him or may hinder him. He must know though, he must. With that in mind, he swallowed his now bubbling fear, horrid memories pouring from his mind, to speak up again.
All was silent for seconds that dropped by like sand in an hour glass, painfully slowly, before the sound of approaching footsteps- if that was what they were – drew closer and closer, quietened down but not entirely hidden due to the echoing nature of the room.
Jonathan watched with bated breath as the green curtain in front of him rustled slightly under the touch of another being before a loud intake of breath was heard and the curtains were torn away entirely, the sounds of metal rings sliding across metal railings stabbing into Jonathan's ears.
Brightened sunlight punctured his eyes, making him wince and blink rapidly, sight not accustomed to the full glare of the burning ball of gas, instead used to the slight reflection of light from the orange tiles below. It took him ten seconds to clear his eyes of water, ten seconds of hearing a deep panting breathing that sounded more surprised and intrigued then it did deadly.
Jonathan opened his eyes fully, squinting in pain to stare at the newcomer.
A young pony stood there, emerald eyes wide and sparkling with timid fear and curious questions. Its coat was a deep beige colour that one would position along with that of wallpaper or deep paint, not of an animal. A deep, electric yellow mane rested atop its head, meticulously groomed into an almost posh manner, a tail of the same curious colour whistling through the air behind it. On its rear was what appeared to be a bright white swath of a bandage etched into the creamy fur, carefully crafted and with exquisite detail.
The most surprising figure of the little pony though was the swirling beige horn that erupted from its head.
The little, nearly shivering equine was looking at Jonathan with such an indistinguishable look, emotions exploding across its face like a blitz: fear, happiness, curiosity, apprehension and worry smothered the complexion of the pony.
It seemed to border on action at first, legs tensing, mouth moving as if it were to speak before its ears flickered back and its canopy green eyes darkened as if it was remembering something. Before Jonathan could offer any explanation, any word that may be spoken the little beige unicorn had bolted out of the obscure area and just for a second Jonathan could have sworn it said 'Princess'.
When ones mind and body have been exhausted, when one has previously attempted to relinquish its own life to clear itself of pain, when one had seen the impossible, the unbelievable and the unimaginable then it would take an awful lot to startle them, to surprise them or to shock them. This, the image of the little beige unicorn that seemed to speak was, in fact, enough to startle Jonathan, clouding his mind so that he had no time to question or ask the strange creature on his whereabouts before it had vanished.
Uncertainly, Jonathan pieced together another memory, his last true one before the insanity inducing illness had gotten to him. He remembered words spoken, sentences whispered, orders given but there had been no humans in sight, only the purple eyed watcher and twin blocks of gold, the real identities behind the creatures obscured by the seething madness.
Could they talk, these little ponies, or was this another cheap shot at his equilibrium by the monster in his mind?
He had seen stranger things, more horrific things in the course of his life then possible talking ponies with horns, the oddities mostly consisting of the voice and its transformations of his own body, his temple. Oddly enough though, whenever he imagined his body changing, he drew blank on emotions, as if they were being smothered and kept at bay by another force that refused to let him acknowledge them.
It took him minutes of near silence, of distant ringing, clopping of hooves, of whispering wind before he grew accustomed to the idea of talking ponies with horns that originated from fairy tales and myths. After all that had happened to him, the horrors and the misery, the persecution and the hauntings, the changing of his body and mind and the whispering voice, crackling laughter, he could come to accept that the rules of the game had changed now, what once was myth and fiction now seemed real and true.
The rules of logic had been warped and twisted beyond belief and yet, like with his changing body, Jonathan felt naught but a faint sense of disbelief at the change, as if his emotions were once more bound and tied away.
A/N: Not a big, fancy chapter this time around, just spreading more fear and whatnot. I think I appropriately explained why he didn't freak out when pony unicorn fella' showed up so that was good.
This chapter was inspired by the chapter A Packet Of Letters from The Woman In Black.
Enjoy and expect the next chapter tomorrow which will feature Celestia in it once more and which will start to spread the feeling of Discord's control.
And in the chapter after that, I think I'll give Jon a nice lookin' beard.