AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is bookplayer's fault. See this blog post by DH and this comment by bookplayer. Also see bookplayer's How to do a Sonic Rainboom, which has nothing to do with this story but is really good. NOT NOW! After you read this story. I'm not allowed to use the OC tag because device heretic and bookplayer invented the character, so there.
Churning dark clouds hurried overhead past Ponyville, blown on a chill, foreshadowing wind. The red glow on their undersides faded as the sun's last rays died and night descended on the town.
The gaunt, old grey unicorn pulled his tattered and dusty cloak tighter about him as he made his slow and deliberate way down the town's empty streets. The traveler paid no mind to the street signs, but stopped now and then to sniff the air, and cock an ear to the sky, before grunting to himself and continuing. Eventually he found himself on the doorstep of a nice Ponyville townhouse, one of those new tri-levels going up on the south end. He eyed the row of peonies in a window flowerbox dubiously before rapping heavily and ominously on the door.
Inside, the red-and-black alicorn Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade stood in a room by himself, silently regarding a tan chaise lounge situated between two oak end tables, one with a brass lamp with fringes on its shade, the other with a vase of red flowers. His massive muscles rippled with every movement of his battle-scarred body as he turned his head, first to one end table, then to the other. On hearing the hollow, foreboding knock, he turned and looked over his shoulder.
"Honey, could you get that?" he called.
An earth pony stallion with a maple-sugar coat and mane trotted down the hallway, past the room where Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade stood pondering the furniture arrangement, and into the entrance foyer. He opened the door to find the stranger waiting there. They both twitched their noses and blinked, looking equally surprised. Then the stranger spoke, in the deep, unwavering voice of one who has seen unspeakable sights and knows terrible and glorious secrets.
"I have followed the scent of destiny to your doorstep, young stallion. I have grave words to speak, and grim – but there is yet cause for hope."
The earth pony turned his head over his shoulder and shouted, "I think it's one of those Jehoovah's Witnesses."
"Just flame at him and he'll run away," Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade called back.
"I don't flame," the earth pony said.
"I have come from a distant land, drawn here by emanations of vast magical power, and by prophecy."
"Oh, come on, just roll your eyes at him and call him 'darling'! It'd be so cute."
"Not gonna happen, Nighty."
"The fate of all Equestria hangs in the balance!" the unicorn intoned.
The earth pony nodded. "Yeah, yeah. Look. Come in for a second, I can get you some water, okay? But then you hafta leave." He took one step towards the kitchen.
"SILENCE!" the old unicorn thundered, and when he stamped one hoof for emphasis, a lightning bolt split the sky behind him and left an echoing crack and a ringing in all their ears.
"My bad," the earth pony called over his shoulder. "He's an adventurer."
"Oh, Celestia!" Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade called back. "They're even worse!"
The unicorn cleared his throat. "I am Dan-galf Shadowhax, the grey pony, the midnight crow, counsellor of kings..."
"Come on, Nighty, you know he's here for you."
"... summoner of tides, wayfarer of wastes..."
"I'm not here! Can he hear me?"
"... keeper of the crimson croissant, and I must speak to the prophesied one – to Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade!" He glared at the earth pony with the visage of one used to commanding armies and giving stern warnings to kings and queens.
The earth pony stared right back. "Yeah. Well, he's a little busy. So whattya need?"
The unicorn scrutinized the brown earth pony doubtfully. "And who might you be?"
"Phil," the earth pony answered.
The traveler frowned. He did not look like a pony used to being denied an audience, or to explaining himself to ponies named Phil.
"Look," Phil said, "let me guess. You got an evil sorcerer needs killing, a relic of great power to get or destroy, a dangerous rift that might open a portal to another dimension, or some kinda Discord-related issue."
The traveler said angrily, "Do not speak to me as though I were a colt! I have climbed the heights of Mt. Varanus, I have ridden the wind on the backs of dragons, and I—"
The old unicorn turned his face away. "The third," he muttered.
"Yeah. And it's in the Everfree Forest, right?"
Dan-galf raised both eyebrows.
"I thought so. It's rift season. Just hold on here a moment." He disappeared into the back briefly, then re-emerged holding a battered black steel toolbox in his mouth, which he set on the floor. "Nighty," he called, "I'm gonna go help this guy with his rift, okay?"
"But we were going to go through that new catalog from Neighman-Marecus together tonight!"
"I'll be back quick, I promise."
Phil groaned. "Pinky-promise." He turned back to the old unicorn. "Now let's you and me go take a look at this rift, then we can come back here and you can talk to Nighty if you still want."
The unicorn stamped one hoof stubbornly. "The prophesied one must come!"
"Look, he's staring at the furniture again, and in another few minutes he's gonna start pushing it around, and that could go on for an hour."
"The prophecy says—"
Phil raised a hoof, cutting him off, and said, "Listen. Do you like musical dance numbers?"
He grimaced. "I despise them."
"Then leave him here. Trust me. So, this rift. Does it go hiss, or a sort of zhurp-zhurp-zhurp?"
The old pony sighed and slumped his shoulders. "It's more of a zhurp zhurp," he said.
"Uh-huh. And would you say it pulses, streams, or just glows steady-like?"
"Pulses. It throbs with an other-worldly—"
"Uh-huh. Gonna need a socket wrench." He opened the toolbox and began rummaging through it, tossing a few tools onto the floor. "Is this rift English or metric? Ah, better take both sets."
Dan-galf gasped at the pile of tools, some of which were forged from metals that were a wicked-looking cold grey, or strangely iridescent, and covered in ancient runes. "Is that – is that the Dagger of Invictus?"
"Yeah," Phil said. "Nighty gave me that. Never needs sharpening. Wish I had a dozen of those babies."
"And the Hammer of Amit?"
"Yeah, we're gonna need that to drive in some shims," Phil said. He threw some of the tools back in the box, left the Dagger of Invictus and a few others lying there on the floor, then strapped on some saddlebags that were hanging in the foyer and put the toolbox inside.
"I still don't understand," the old pony said. "Why is Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade, the great warrior foretold to us in ancient prophecies, obsessed with the placement of furniture?"
Phil leaned in, put one foreleg around Dan-galf and said quietly, "Well, lemme put it this way. Some ponies believe that every guy like me and Nighty is a natural-born genius at matching colors and furniture and all that."
The gray pony wrinkled his brow, perplexed. "Like you and Nighty?"
"Yeah, but it's just a myth."
"And your... friend is one of the few with real talent?"
"Phil!" Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade called from down the hall. "Have you seen my color swatches?"
"They're Rarity's swatches, which you were borrowing, and she came by and picked them up yesterday because you never returned them," Phil called out. He turned back to the old unicorn and leaned in closer. "My 'friend' is one of the ponies who believes the myth. Come on, let's get out of here before there's a montage or something." He pushed Dan-galf the grey pony out the door and shut it behind him.
Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade absent-mindedly stroked his chin with the blood-red pearl of great magical power mounted in his adamantium-clawed battle-hoofring while he contemplated the two end tables. End tables normally went on the two ends of something; but the whole purpose of a chaise lounge was to break up that kind of symmetry. Functionally, both end tables should go at the end where a pony's head would go, one behind and one beside the lounge. But that would push the lounge away from the wall and leave a big unusable empty space behind it, which was bad Feng Shui.
He loved chaise lounges, but the mystery of how to coordinate them with matched end tables still eluded him. Possibly... if you pushed it back into a corner, angled so that the end table behind the lounge just fit into the space between the lounge and the corner...
A little less than an hour later, Phil and Dan-galf returned. "Amazing," Dan-galf was muttering. "We are eternally grateful to you... Phil."
"Remember to check on it every week with the torque wrench, crank it back up to 35 if it goes under 30 pounds, but no more or you'll strip the threads. Whack the shims if they start working their way out. Let me know if reality starts going a little wibbly-wobbly."
"I shall, Phil of Ponyville," Dan-galf said. "This I swear by—"
"Phil!" Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade exclaimed, galloping into the room. "You simply must see what I've done with the sitting room! You're going to love it."
"Can we still sit in it?"
"Come, come, come!" Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade tugged at Phil with a fiery red plasma of immense yet gentle magical power.
"Hail, Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade!" Dan-galf said. "I have heard the bards sing of your—"
Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade jerked his tall, stately head toward Dan-galf. "My designs? You've heard of them?"
Phil shook his head urgently at Dan-galf.
"Er... no. I have heard tell of your deeds of bravery..."
But the handsome alicorn had already lost interest and turned his deep, soulful red eyes on Phil. "You won't believe it. I asked myself, How can I balance a tan lounge with oak end-tables? That's bad color theory right there to begin with. But I found these forest-green throw-pillows..."
Phil mouthed Get out while you can! to Dan-galf and waved him towards the door as he was dragged backwards by the irresistible strength of the equally-irresistible alicorn.
"Er... I take my leave of you, Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade. And of you... Phil." He watched them disappear down the hallway and into the sitting room.
"Nighty!" he heard Phil exclaim. "It's exactly the same as before!"
Then Dan-galf Shadowhax the grey pony, counsellor of kings, shut the door behind him very quietly and ventured back into the cold and windy night.