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Trixie woke up the next morning refreshed and bright eyed to find the sun fully greeting the new day. Her dreams had been happily filled with the sounds of adoring crowds, chanting her name and begging for encores to her magical performance. Sadly she couldn’t remember what exactly she’d done to earn such admiration, but the showpony didn’t care so long as she could still hear the echoes of a joyful crowd ringing in her ears.
Getting up from bed she performed a quick round of stretching to prepare her for the morning. Magic already enveloped her chosen breakfast from one of the high shelves of the cave as she hopped down from the hay bed and trotted over. She set her chosen items down easily with her magic, a sack that held a loaf of fresh wheat bread and a jar of strawberry jam. Looking around the shelves she spotted the small wooden box that held the knife she needed, knives were about the only cutlery the monster Rorschach had in his possession as he cited they were the most useful, and he refused to go out and buy, or ask, for forks and spoons. Still humming to herself she spread jam over a slice of bread with the knife. Once finished she gently set the utensil down on a nearby rock for the human to clean later, it would be too uncouth for Trixie to clean after all.
Levitated breakfast before her she stepped outside to great the new day. Birds sang in the air and insects hummed, flying through the warm morning light. She could already tell today was going to be hot. Spring was quickly turning into summer despite it still being in early May. Trixie didn’t mind, she rather liked the warm weather. It was a time where ponies were lively and there was always something to do somewhere, which was considering of course that you lived in a town. Trixie frowned sadly when that thought struck her, she still was unsure about going into Ponyville again. She wasn’t really sure what Rorschach meant by being less ‘abrasive’ or ‘stubborn’. He did say he would help her but the azure unicorn wasn’t so sure how much help someone like him could give her.
Speaking of Rorschach, Trixie thought, where is he? The pony glanced around the grove expecting to find the monster sulking about in his usual moods. As of late he hadn’t been in the best of spirits, which was saying something for a being who seemed perpetually in a state of unrest and contempt. He did have a tendency to disappear for a time, usually it was to hunt some creature he deemed too dangerous to live, but always, as far as the unicorn knew, he was there in the morning to say so before he left.
She told herself that she should be glad for the peace and quiet, to have some alone time that didn’t include a strange creature skulking around grumbling nonsense. Yet, she didn’t like to be alone and even the monster’s company was better than being unaccompanied again. She sighed and finished off her simple breakfast. Trotting around the edge of the grove she tried to spot the familiar white face of Rorschach perhaps wandering about the forest’s edge checking is his invisible perimeter that he seemed to keep. All she could see though was the forest around her with no sign of the monster around. Still unwilling to give up her search for her reluctant friend (acquaintance?) she trotted down to the river expecting him to be reeling in nasty smelling fish for himself to eat, it was bad enough with the boar but Trixie just couldn’t stand the fish. When she reached the river finally she found to her mild surprise that Rorschach wasn’t there.
A growing urgency of worry started to grow in Trixie’s mind. She scanned the surrounding forest as she walked, the sad frown still on her lips and refusing to fade. She reached the cave without spotting anything that might even tell where he had gone. To her silent disappointment it seemed Rorschach had disappeared without a trace, this time without even a word of when he’d be back.
Trixie’s hoofsteps resounded against the cave walls as she stepped back into its cool embrace. Sitting by the dead fire she used her magic to take one of the pieces of charcoal. Absently she colored in a space of white ash in the fire pit’s center. The day had only started and the usually boisterous pony was bored. The one thing that was keeping her occupied was quickly colored in as the ash spot on the rock disappeared under the grating strokes of the charcoal. With the offending mark gone Trixie placed the blackened piece of carbon back down with the soot.
By chance her eyes flicked towards the smooth rock that Rorschach usually sat on when he often wished to brood. She spotted a familiar looking book laying on its surface. Reaching out with her magic she grasped the book in a violet glow and pulled it closer for her to read. The cover was simple, made of leather and bound by a tough binding. She could see the paper inside was a tannish color, the first half of the book was unkempt and disturbed with the signs of being harshly written upon.
Rorschach had specifically told her that his journal was not something to be looked at but the temptation of it just sitting there begging to be read seemed too much. Perhaps a quick peek wouldn’t hurt? But then again the idea of betraying his trust wasn’t a fond thought. Still, it wasn’t like it was his diary that she’d be reading. He had said so himself that it was a journal, more impersonal and filled with notes of his time and thoughts. It couldn’t hurt to see how his mind work, it also held the potential of giving Trixie clues to where he came from and what he was. The unicorn never did ask him his species or origins, she was too intimidated by his presence to ask a personal question that might offend, though she would never say she was scared of him out loud.
Biting her lower lip in indecision Trixie glanced back towards the cave’s entrance expecting to see the intimidating monster in question appear. A bright early summer morning was all that looked back at her. Maybe just the first page? Gently opening the cover of the book Trixie’s eyes scanned the very first line.
Inattentively she whispered what she read, “Rorschach’s Journal, November 1st, 1985. I wake up on cool grass, staring up at blank blue sky, confused and disoriented….”
I wanted to cave something’s skull in. Bludgeon it until it stopped moving, until that incessant nagging that bothers me has been perished. It was that humming sound again. Worming its way into every crevice of my thoughts. It had not been content to be idle as it had been for weeks, in the past it would always go away and though the few episodes I had shocked and startled me I took a small measure of comfort that they were temporary.
Now the sound refused to leave. Every thought, every little twitch of an emotion was blared a thousand times over by that humming. Like a headache that refused to turn away, one that got stronger with every waking moment that I tried to form even the slightest little thought.
Since last night I haven’t been able to sleep. After Luna left, thought I'd feel better showing her my contempt for her apathetic ways, yet… I felt nothing. That ringing sound returned to me soon after certain dark thoughts crossed my mind. Just as it was the last times it happened. It never left my mind, instead it chose to invade anything I thought of with its painful screeching.
I wandered out of my camp at dusk to try and clear my mind with a walk. Have been walking ever since and the sound still follows me. Now I was agitated, beyond normal. Felt ready to lash out at anything I came across, didn’t care what it was, I just wanted to make something bleed and to pass on my resentment. Trekking deeper into the forest I’d hoped to garner the attention of some beast to kill, a Manticore, Chimera, or Wyvern to fight. Something that wouldn’t die so easily.
Yet the forest was silent, it shrunk away from each step I took, sensing that hated brooding and harm I intended upon its dwellers. And the sound pressed on with its demands, pressing me forward deeper into the forest, deeper than I’ve ever been in. Unfamiliar branches scraped my form and groped at me. The sun itself dimmed from the overbearing limbs above that blocked out its rays for their own greedy use. Gnarled trees became less sporadic and more dominant. Part of me wanted to turn back, to forget this nonsense of bloodshed and carry on, yet the buzzing in my ears pestered me with whispers of how I shouldn’t, how I needed to satisfy my anger. It was right though, I needed to unleash my pent up rage, even for just a moment of adrenaline filled battle.
No time for weakness, no questioning in resolve, something out there deserved to be punished. That princess had the nerve to accuse me of wrongdoing, she need only to turn to the forest to see what filth grew in her own home. Things with teeth and sinful souls, things worse than the offspring of Cain, and yet she chooses me to confront. Did she think I was weak? Was that why she went to me instead of turning to the monsters that surrounded me and hounded my presence with every step I took in return for my retribution? Not weak, not even close, just been slack in body count. Needed something to sate my thirst yet even the Manticores shy away from my approach and did not take my challenge.
I wasn’t weak, I was just. It was the Princess that was weak. It was they that were weak. I needed to remind myself that, all of them were weak things that couldn’t see past what was right in front of their eyes. They wouldn’t understand what suffering was, for these things… these ponies… to tell them what suffering was would be as effective as describing the color red to a blind man. I still held the burden of understanding, I had to keep moving forward.
Yet you deserve to die, a voice whispered in my ear, mingling with the rest of my thoughts.
I growl at the offending remark that I made to myself. Clenching my hands into fists I turn around sharply in hopes of finding something moving to punish. All around me the trees stared blankly back, sinless things that felt no pain. There was no one else, I was alone. Nothing to make bleed, and this offended the ringing in my ears.
I couldn’t help it anymore. I screamed to the heavens a challenge to strike me down. My sight turned red hoping to spot even the faintest shadow of another human, a monster, anything to recklessly dismantle into gore. I couldn’t rest, couldn’t be weak. Not when souls to punish existed or monsters roamed. They deserved to die, not I. They all deserved to die. Sinners, the guilty, they all would die. All of them. No compromise, no second chances, no prisons or systems. Death, let God sort them out like he does best. Like even He cares anymore.
Nothing answered me back. The forest was silent in its reply and I only hear the echoes of my own voice. I was truly alone in this world.
Hours passed by and I didn’t even notice, the sun dipped down. I was a ghost intruding in the forest. Dazed, sleep deprived, and angry. Every chance my eyelids dipped down to force sleep upon me the humming sound would scream and I would be reminded of my reason for being out in the forests. My instincts told me something wasn’t right but each time I tried to question what it was I would be disrupted by the sudden sound of whispers around me. Have I lost my mind finally? I felt now that it was the sound, that badgering and consistent sound, that pulled me forward, aching for battle.
Why should I be so willing to do just that?
Memories of my screaming passed by and I don’t know if they were my own words anymore. Was like my writing. Sounded just like me but wasn’t. It wasn’t the same, couldn’t be. Yet what was different? I stop walking, I refused to take another step forward. I couldn’t keep the rage that boiled in my veins, I needed something to kill, then I could be done with it and the screeching in my ears would disappear..
My answer came with the sound of frantic flapping wings.
I followed the sounds of a struggle with the help of the dipping sun’s light. It was already setting and I had barely noticed the passage of time. How long was I out, enthralled with my own rage? I pass by branches and brushed away leaves as I continue towards the sound. The humming finally subsides to a background sound along with the forest’s cicadas and chirping frogs. It gives me a chance to think on what sort of creature made such a sound. The wings sounded the same as a bird’s, ruled out the idea of it being a Manticore. Few monsters I could think of met the category of feathered wings.
The disappointment was rather mild when I reached the source of the panicked bird to find just that. Curious, I looked up above me where in the canopy a large owl had tangled itself in some vines. The brownish owl pecked at it with its powerful jaws and clawed at the vines coiled around one of its legs, right wings, and neck. Its plume was disheveled from its struggling as the vines were outlasting the bird’s attempts at breaking it. Each time it struggled the owl only tangled itself more and wrapped the vine around its neck tighter. Such a stupid bird to get itself into such a predicament. Perhaps it fell or attempted to flee some predator but in the end it got itself stuck?
Watching the bird struggle for a few seconds more I came to the stark conclusion it wasn’t going to get free anytime soon, it would sooner strangle itself. I sigh from the annoyance and grab hold one of the lower tree branches to pull myself up to the bird’s level. It notices my approach and doubles its attempts at escaping, choking itself with the vine around its neck. After avoiding the bird’s mad thrashing and pulling myself up to the same level branches I inspect the vines. It’d be too tough to break and I neglected bringing any of my knives with me for just such an occasions. I look up to try and find one of the vine’s sources in hopes of ripping it from its spot. My reward came when I noticed one branch above that was entrapped by the vine was weak and leafless. It was a simple exertion of force to pull it off its spot and unravel the tension the vines had.
With the extra lining the vines fell away from the bird and they both dipped down. The owl easily slipped out of the vine’s loose grasping. It stared up at me briefly before it shot out into the forest. ‘Stupid bird, I thought. I jumped down from the tree limbs and landed upon the soft forest floor again. With the bird gone and no direction to turn to I walked aimlessly away. I feel a great weight lifted from my mind with the humming dulled to nothing. I sigh in relief, the bird, as stupid as it was, had served to at least temporarily relieve my migraines.
It didn’t take me long to realize I was being followed. The sound of wings in the air caught my attention. The slightest of sounds coupled with the anxiety of knowing I was being watched. I turn around to see the owl was following me. It doesn’t seem perturbed by being spotted and moves around me to land on a nearby branch. Silently we regard each other, its stare never faltering. I stepped closer to it and it didn’t react, merely watch me with its large unblinking eyes.
It rather unnerved me.
I never cared for animals, useless things in my opinion and more often detrimental to a man’s well-being should they be wild. Seeing this owl reminded me how I never could understand what Dan saw in them to take the moniker of Nite Owl. I remember he told me they represented wisdom but I could never see the intelligence in a fat bird.
Tentatively I place my arm out before the owl and to my mild surprise it moves from the branch onto my forearm. Its grip was impressive and its pointed talons dug into the tough canvas of my jacket. I tilt my head to it and it mimics me, I repeated the action in the different direction and it follows just the same. Leaning my head back it leans back as well and once satisfied with the other we both return to standing as usual. I chuckle, a noise that came out more raspy than I thought it would, “Strange thing, aren’t you?” I ask it.
“Who?” it responds to me.
I smirk, “I forget I’m talking to an animal.”
“Who?” it repeats.
I understood it was just calling out but I swore by its tone it was goading me into responding to its calls. Obviously it wasn’t, birds weren’t that smart but perhaps it would do no harm to humor this thing. After all it did keep that humming sound at bay for the time being. Talking might help clear my mind and this animal wasn’t going to actually respond to me.
“You remind of someone I knew once.” I tell the creature as I start to walk again, “Before I died.”
“Who?” it asks me again.
Ignoring my rational thought I decided to answer it, “Fellow hero named Nite Owl. Naïve man with unrealistic world views and far too hopeful for man’s future.”
“Who?” the owl says, though I notice a differing tone to each of its calls when it speaks to me. But what was I thinking, it wasn’t speaking to me.
“Was weak, compromised when he could and took pity on criminals lowlifes...” I trail off as I thought back to Dan, the one friend that stood by me and tolerated my habits and ways. Rather he was the only real friend I had and even in the end I never really blamed him for my death. He made his choice and I made mine, it was as simple as that. I tell the bird so with this different line of thing, “Was only friend really. Honest. Affable. All around friendly. Charismatic even to other heroes and press.”
“Awful investigator but genius in invention. Inheritance of banking fortune helped too. Good fighter as well, taught him some but he didn’t need my guidance. We made a good team for a while. More effective than the New York police ever could be. Took down major crime in the city and kept the nights safe for innocent people.” I pause to think back to the many nights we spent cleaning up the streets. I thought back to the raids on drug dealers, those chances we had to halt robberies, rescuing the kidnapped and punishing the kidnappers, and stopping villains from carrying out their malicious agendas. Then I thought about the falling out we had, the night that ended our partnership. I remember it clearly, atop the art museum, the first time the two of us came to blows. Quietly I say to the owl, “Shame it all ended.”
“Well... Wait.” I stopped walking to fiercely stare at the owl perched on my outstretched arm. It looked back at me, unblinking, and disinterested in the quizzical look I gave upon it.
“Did you just say ‘why’?” I ask the thing suspiciously.
“Who?” It quickly replies.
“You. You did just now… Hurm, nevermind. Nothing else makes sense here, why should owls.” I resumed walking, ignoring the glaring fact that this bird might be toying with me. But there was no way it was that smart. Probably just heard it wrong.
Might as well continue my monologue; it felt good to actually speak my thoughts than deal again with the war in my mind, the respite was a godsend. “Talking of Dan brings to mind someone else.”
“Who?” it asks me with an inquisitive undertone to its call.
“Twilight Sparkle.” I replied with a nod, “Hate the name. Dislike her personality, never could stand intellectuals but she’s bearable I suppose. Have had to deal with her type before so it comes easy to tolerate their type. Dan always was bookish. Felt the accumulation of useless or outdated facts and knowledge would somehow better himself. Curious habit.” I mused.
I give the bird a frown, “You know. With your riveting personality you might get along with Twilight Sparkle. After all she does live in a tree in town. She might as well be an owl if it’s true that you things are so smart and wise. I highly doubt that though. Now how about you leave, tired of you following me and my arm won’t hold a fat bird up for much longer. Perhaps go bother her, she might tolerate your stupidity more than I,” I said, fed up with the bird’s one word and toying tonality.
Flinging my arm skyward I sent the bird flying back into the sky. It breaches the canopy and takes off into the night, this time it wouldn’t return to me. Looking up the gap in the foliage where the bird disappeared I see the stars shine in their illustrious glory. It calms me to see them and for the first time all day my head feels clear for just second. I’ve completely forgotten my rage, it seemed foolish now and to think I’ve been gone all day.
Trixie must be worried out of her mind.
The thought makes me laugh, an act I haven’t done in such a long time and sounded more pained than happy, I must look like a raging fool to be standing in the dark forest laughing to myself but I didn’t care. It felt good to have the sudden change in emotion even if it came from such a ludicrous and stupid thought. I laughed until my lungs burned and I couldn’t laugh anymore. To think it would be a bird that brought me to my senses, it almost made me want to laugh again. Looking around my surroundings I couldn’t help but wonder where I was. Didn’t think things through enough to realize in my wandering I had no idea where I’d end up. Getting back will be annoying.
The sound growls in frustration, a quick crescendo that I somehow manage to crush down. I’m resolved to run back and stop this mindless rage of mine. This was not my purpose and nothing could tell me what to do. I turn back around to the trail I have made, hopefully following it back would bring me into familiar territory again.
I had to get back before I start to loose my senses again, somehow i felt this was only a reprieve to more suffering.
[Shorter chapter, rather a prelude for the next chapter which will be pretty big (I mean that literally and figuratively!) Also I just have to give a shout out to Muffintop who made the comment about meeting Owlicious. I had thought about meeting the owl before but didn't think much of it until Muffintop commented about the connections that could be made with Nite Owl. I figured, why not give it its own chapter. Hope it meets your expectations mate, and to the rest of ya you can thank him for this chapter!