Luna entered the next room hesitantly, peeking through a crack in the door. All was quiet as she nudged the door open. The room was large, like it was the foyer to the castle, and had fairly large windows that let in a substantial amount of light. The princess strolled to the middle of the foyer to get a look around for what she should do next. She looked to the set of stairs in front of her.
Two sets of stairs actually, Luna made a mental note. One of the stairs was crumbling and unsafe to walk up so the only set of stairs she could use was to the left of her. Between the stairs there was yet another set of stairs that led downward to a door, or what Luna thought was a door as it was covered behind a sickly black liquid that moved in, what she could tell, a predictable hexagonal pattern.
Luna walked down to the door and made a move to touch the black liquid but recoiled and yelped in pain when her hoof made contact. The liquid felt like it would burn through her hoof in a matter of seconds if she touched the liquid any longer. Giving one last look at the inaccessible door, she walked back up to the foyer and gave another look around. Her eyes went wide at what she spotted.
There were two large doors across the foyer that undoubtedly led to the outside, away from the castle. Luna quickly went into a full gallop, reaching the entrance in seconds, and went to shove the doors open. When her hoof touched the door, however, the same scream ripped into her head for only a second and she withdrew. When she looked up again she felt her heart drop. The exit out of the castle was covered in the same strange liquid as the door behind her.
“Now how am I supposed to leave?” Luna drooped her head and stomped her hoof on the cobblestone floor in defeat before she slowly started to walk back to the foyer to see if there was anything else she would be able to do. She looked to her right for a moment and saw several bookcases that she had might as well check. In her efforts she picked up another two matches and a letter that she could actually read.
“I have been studying the effects of this strange, black liquid for weeks now and have been able to come up with a conclusive report on its attributes. The liquid is viscous in nature but appears to move in any direction it wants. Yet, strangely enough, the pattern in which the liquid moves is predictable. The patterns usually involve hexagonal formations but can also construct itself to form…”
Luna grunted in frustration as the bottom half of the report appears to have been distorted and illegible from water damage. The dark alicorn started flipping through the report in hopes to find anything that described how to get rid of the black liquid. Finally something caught her eye.
“…the liquid seems to react to acids and I have found a particular formula that will dissolve the substance. The procedure is as follows:
1. Acquire 30mL each of the nectar from poison joke, of stomach acid, of dew from the parasprite flower, and of milk from the fangs of an Everfree Viper.
2. Heat the liquid from each to the temperatures listed in the Catalogue of Deadly Poisons and Acids located in the Laboratory.
3. Concentrate the gases in a long and thin tube, allowing for the gases to mix with each other
4. Cool the gases so that they return to liquid form and pour into a beaker.
5. Apply the acid to the black liquid
All materials should be located in the Laboratory and I have had a device created that completes steps 2-5 without the need to find some way to concentrate the gases. Supplies are limited so I must be wary how often I experiment on this liquid…”
Luna stored the note in the feathers of her wings and stepped back out into the foyer. She looked to her left where there was another hallway with a sign above it reading “Laboratory and Cellar”.
“So all I need to do is find these acids and create this concoction; then remove the liquid on the entrance to the castle and I should be free” Luna thought. “How hard could this be?”
Luna made her way over to the hallway to find it split off in two directions. To the left was the Cellar and to the right was the Laboratory. Luna made the easy decision of going to the Laboratory and descended down the stairs that led to the room.
The princess opened the door and looked inside, noting that the room was fairly dark but there was a torch to her right that was lit and shedding enough light for the relatively spacious room. She walked across the wooden platform that marks the entrance to the Laboratory and trotted down the stairs and started to make observations of her surroundings. To her left she could see a room that is lit but she cannot clearly make out what is inside. It seemed to her that was going to be the only interesting room, however, as all the other rooms have been caved-in.
Luna walked into the lit room and discovered that the source of light was coming from a lantern sitting on a desktop next to a contraption that matched the description of purpose from the report on the black liquid. Luna quickly walked over to the desktop and observed the device.
Suddenly she heard a splash from a grate behind her that was centered in the room. The princess slowly approached the grate and upon looking down she noticed that there was nothing peculiar except for sloshing water.
Then there was another splash and a low growl from the water. Luna jumped back when she thought she spotted a white form for a brief moment looking up at her.
Controlling her breathing, the dark alicorn carefully walked back over to the grate to inspect what she had just seen but found nothing. Whatever that thing was was now gone which, Luna was willing to admit, put her at a bit of ease.
With that out of the way, Luna began to search the room for any sign of the acids that were listed on the paper.She searched every bookcase and ripped out every drawer but found nothing. Feeling defeated again, Luna started to walk over to the table where the lantern was when she spotted a piece of paper on one of the bookshelves she must have over looked. She picked it up and read.
“I must apologize, Mr. Night Shimmer, but I have had all of your acids moved to the cellar due to the recent cave-in in one section of the Laboratory. The resulting damage cost us the use of the nursery for our herbal medicines and I wish to protect the rest of the ingredients from future cave-ins. This part of the castle is unstable anyways.
-Signed by the Headmaster/Baron Darkwing”
Luna stored the note in her feathers and also retrieved a key that was hiding under the note. “This must be for the cellar” She said as a way to make a mental note to herself. “ If I’m going to gather all of those acids I’m going to need some saddle bags”
Luna began looking around the room for some sort of bags she could use. Thankfully she wasn’t going to be unlucky this time around when she found a pair of saddle bags nestled neatly in a corner. She picked them up and stored the notes and matches and striker in them before walking over to the desk to retrieve the lantern.
“If the cellar is like any other part of the castle so far then it is probably going to be dark” Luna told herself as she picked the lantern up with her mouth. Now that Luna felt more prepared, she headed back the way she came, out the Laboratory and down towards the cellar, using the key she found to unlock the door.
When Luna stepped into the cellar, however, she blacked out…
“Good afternoon, dear sister. Please, come take your seat next to me.”
Luna stepped forward through the throne chamber, approaching her seat next to her sister, the Princess of the Sun. The throne chamber was long so it would take near a short while for Luna to reach her throne, giving her a few more seconds to ponder what it is her sister has called her for that is so urgent. Luna pondered to no avail though and reached her throne sooner that she would have liked. She took her seat next to her bigger sister.
“I apologize, Woona, if I have woken you. I know how much you enjoy your precious moments of sleep.” Princess Celestia apologized to Luna, her voice sincere and kind. Luna had always liked that about her sister, even when she used her pet name from when they were little fillies.
“It is quite alright ‘Tia. I have actually been perfecting my night for the upcoming wedding. It is going to be the most beautiful night anypony has seen for over a thousand years.”
“Oh Luna, I have no doubt that it will be a wonderful night. I greatly look forward to it! I do hope you get some sleep though.”
The dark blue alicorn gave her bright white alicorn sister a smile. “Oh sister, I am the Princess of the Night! I do not need to sleep so often.”
Princess Celestia leaned over to give her sister a nuzzle. “All right, all right, Luna. Just big sister intuition kicking in.”
Luna returned the nuzzle. “So what brings this audience, ‘Tia? I have received word that you canceled the rest of the Day Court for today. You haven’t done that since Discord was released and we needed the Elements of Harmony to return him to his stony prison.”
Celestia broke away from Luna and gave her a more serious look, taking a pause in what to say next. “Luna as you know I have been looking for a very powerful artifact for near a millennia now with no success. I have been close at times but this artifact seems to evade my grasp at every turn and I have not been able to find it since your… Um, Nightmare.”
Luna watched Celestia but did not interrupt, knowing full well what this artifact was that her sister was talking about. The younger princess nodded her head for Celestia to continue.
“Earlier today one of the guards came to me informing that there was a mare who said she had sensitive information that should be heard only by my ears. Being that I don’t necessarily… enjoy the company of the Day Court, I happily obliged to have an audience. I held up the court and allowed the mare entrance to the throne room so that she may speak to me in private.” Celestia paused.
Luna perked up her ears, and she looked her sister up and down as she spoke, “’Tia, what did she say? Who was she? How much did she know?”
Celestia looked down at her younger sister, and she gave a small, forced smile, “She knows a lot Woona, more than I had hoped.”
Luna awoke in the same position as when she blacked out, a familiar pain shooting back into her head.
“Ugh, what was that… A flashback?” Luna said as she staggered forward and lit a match for a torch mounted on the wall to brighten up the dark room she was in.
After giving herself some time to recover, Luna looked up to see what was around her, although that proved to be a bit difficult. Even with the light from the torch the room was still pretty dark beyond the wooden platform the dark alicorn was standing on. “Well, cellars are fairly dark regardless”
Luna started down the steps and saw that there was a door directly in front of her. She opened the door and peered into the room, shining the lantern so that she could see what was inside. Just a bunch of barrels. The princess walked into the room and started checking around the barrels for any sign of an acid that could be lying about. It wasn’t until she walked over to the desk in the corner of the room that she spotted a bottle that looked promising. She levitated it with her magic.
“Parasprite Flower Dew. Aha!” Luna said aloud and she put the bottle of acid into one of her saddle bags. “Okay, three more ingredients to go.”
Luna turned to go, picking up another match that was lying on the table and exited the room, closing the door behind her. She spotted another door that had been left slightly ajar off to her left. The alicorn walked over to the door timidly and nudged it open. The first thing that could be noticed is that there was light spilling in from a window in the back of the room onto a desk. Walking into the room carefully, Luna noticed another note on the desk.
“I am pleased to announce that we have the entire cellar to ourselves! Endless drinking, partying, happiness. Who could want more? The wine does have a strange taste to it however as it leaves a heavy feeling in our bellies but what does it matter? The head master has been very good to us and for that we all thank him. Cheers!”
Luna put the note with all of the other papers in her saddle bags and continued searching the room for the remaining acid bottles. There didn’t seem to be any bottles in this room so Luna moved onto the room next to the one she was currently in and found a bottle labeled “Everfree Viper Venom” sitting right on top of a chest. Luna took the bottle and placed it into her saddle bags before searching the chest, finding lantern oil and another match. “This should come in handy later. I don’t have an endless supply of lantern oil, do I?” Luna chuckled to herself. Her luck was running well so far, two more acids to go.
Luna quickly departed the room and trotted over to the other side of the cellar, spotting a door. She tried turning the handle but there was no budge. Frustrated, the princess tried to look through the key hole. She stopped suddenly when a door off to her left creaked slightly, jolting her to her feet and looking at the door left ajar. She walked over and pushed it open.
There was some light entering the room from a small window sitting above a bookshelf that had some interesting vials sitting on it. Luna walked over and read one of the vials. “Healing Potion. Well, it doesn’t hurt to take a few I guess” Luna muttered to herself, picking up the vials. Luna went to pick up the third vial but saw that it looked different to the rest. She read the label.
“Poison Joke Nectar. Yay! Just one more ingredient.” Luna placed the vial with the other acids and closed the saddle bag. As she turned to check out the rest of the room she heard hoofsteps.
Her lungs stopped dead. She couldn’t move.
At the end of the room she saw the silhouette of a pony turn the corner and look directly at her. She could hear its raspy breathing and judging by the rise and fall of the pony’s chest, Luna figured it was in pain. The Princess of the Night approached the figure.
Only to stop dead in her tracks.
The mare’s coat looked like it had been shaved off with a rusty tool, leaving scars across her body that looked to be infected judging by the green puss that leaked from the wounds. The creature’s mane was as brittle as the brush from a broomstick and she was missing a tail completely. Her eyes were gouged out leaving only gaping holes while the rest of her face looks to have been literally ripped off, leaving her jaw slack and dangling while fresh blood and infected puss dripped from her now gaping mouth.
It charged Luna.
Luna turned and ran, fear creeping into the depths of her brain as she leaped for the door only to find to suspiciously closed, her head colliding with the wood.
“Get up Luna, come on, get up!” Luna struggled to her hoofs, only to be knocked back down again and bucked in the stomach by the maimed pony. Luna smacked the pony with her hooves, pushing it aside, and allowing her time to get up and fumble with the door.
The pony let out a deep groan and a sickening growl.
Luna turned just in time as she got the door open to have her face smashed against the side of the door, cracking her horn. She cried out in pain but scrambled out the door, slamming it behind her.
SMASH. Luna was thrown to the ground by the impact. The pony was trying to get through the door.
I have to run, now. Luna quickly got to her hooves and rushed to the room that contained the barrels, quickly closing the door behind her. She huddled against the corner and dared not to breathe.
The door flew off of its hinges with one last buck from the maimed pony. She let out that sickening growl again as she started to patrol the area, looking for her now missing prey. Luna held herself completely still until she could not hear the mare’s breathing anymore as it clopped up the stairs. Even when it seemed the mare had left the cellar, she stayed still for some time longer.
Finally, when it felt as though Luna was about to suffocate herself, she let go of her breath and stood up, walking to the door. She slowly opened the door, peering out into the cellar with her lantern dimmed so as not to attract attention. The room was empty. Luna let out a sigh of relief and brightened the lantern so she could inspect herself.
The buck she got in her side wasn’t too bad and was just going to leave some bruises. Her face didn’t fare so well. Her cheek was bleeding from a large scrape she received from being slammed against the door along with her horn having a crack in it. She wasn’t even sure if she could perform magic for the time being. She tried to levitate a rock in front of her.
“Horseapples” Luna quietly muttered as the rock would barely even move from the blue hue that surrounded it. “This is going to take months to heal”
Luna quickly returned to the room where she was attacked and found no trace of the creature.
“Thank Equestria… Okay, I hope I can find some medical supplies and the last bottle of acid” Luna winced as she began walking down the hall and around the corner where the monster had appeared.
As luck would have it Luna did find the last bottle of acid, stomach acid, but did not find any medical supplies that could patch up her cheek. Feeling confident that she at least found all of the ingredients for this concoction, Luna returned back to the main room of the cellar and walked up to the wooden platform. leaving the cellar for good.
The slightly battered alicorn rushed back to the Laboratory in a somewhat painful trot but stopped at the door to the room, suspicious that the creature may have gone there in search of her. Luna slowly opened the door, peaking inside and saw that the torch was still lit and no monster in sight. She rushed into the Laboratory, closing the door behind her, and trotted over to the desk in the room.
Upon reaching the desk, Luna opened her saddle bags and took out all of the acids and began pouring them into beakers of 30mL each. Afterwards she placed the beakers on the burners under the contraption and fetched a jar that looked as though it could hold the acid concoction. She placed the jar at the end of the device and turned it on. Luna watched with interest as the machine heated the acids, condensed the gases, and then cooled the one new gas to be poured into the jar. She looked in the jar, disappointed.
There was not enough acid to dissolve the black liquid that blocked the main doors to the castle and she could not make any more as she used the last of the Everfree Viper Venom.
“I do, however, have enough to remove the liquid that is guarding that door between the two sets of stairs.” Luna thought aloud. “Perhaps there is another exit out of this castle.”
The princess quickly left the Laboratory and ran to the door between the two stairs that was covered in the black liquid. She took out the acid and gently poured it over the liquid, making sure not to get any on herself. The liquid made a horrible screeching sound as it dissolved away. Luna opened the door and stopped.
She glanced behind herself and she didn't see anything.