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Nothing special here, move along, nothing to see, just ignore the lump under the sheet and the red stuff...

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Substitute Librarian doodling - Sneak peek · 7:33am Nov 23rd, 2020

Since Estee mentioned in Daily Equestria Life With Monster Girl (Now with new art from Harwick) that Canterlot had tunnels in the mountain that could be used for evacuation in case of Tirek, I had to wonder just what would happen if some idiot got trapped in them by accident. So I looked at Emerald...

(Sample of a chapter below, in first draft format. Please note that chapters may be posted to the story out of sequence depending on when they get dreamed up and put on paper.)

The Ghost in the Mountain

“Don’t disturb the Canterlot ghost.”

Emerald chuckled to himself as he recalled the words of the creaky old librarian who had permitted him into the darkness of Deep Storage, the hiding place for all of the archived books that no longer had a place in the Canterlot Archives, either because they had been worn to near uselessness or just become outdated. Picker would have been able to feed his pulping business for years with the tattered and battered tomes on these shelves, or at least until the Canterlot Archivists tracked him down and murdered them both.

Death by a thousand papercuts, probably.

Somehow, Emerald suspected the ‘pulping’ incident with the Ponyville library was not common knowledge among the sharp-eyed and dusty librarians here, or they most certainly would have forbidden his entrance on his noble quest to unearth the one last reference he needed for his Master’s thesis to be complete. It was a noble quest into the embrace of the mountain’s ebon darkness to do battle with various terrifying monsters, if squinted at. Still, he probably should have just admitted it was easier to simply strike one paragraph in the griffon history and not use that reference he was looking for at all, but stubbornness was built into his bones, just like Father.

A yawn threatened to knock the firefly lantern off his tight toothgrip, so Emerald bit down and concentrated on his search through the dusty passages of the climate-controlled storage units. His journey would have been easier if the gloomy place was lit, but permanent lighting devices were too expensive for areas that received so little hoof traffic, and carrying a light any brighter than the organic lightning bugs would include the risk of fire.

Fire bad. Fire in the ancient books was worse. Ghosts appeared to be acceptable, provided they did not use fire, he supposed. Which was a slightly strange attitude for librarians, on second thought. They tended to be old mares with intently practical beliefs, physical instead of metaphysical, proven instead of theoretical, pages instead of… well, ghosts.

He shook off the idea and resumed his search in the gloom. The ghost of Ponyville’s library was a mere fiction he had created on his own to spook the foals during the sleepover. If there really was an Alicorn of Knowledge, it would haunt the aboveground sections of the Canterlot Archives where the magical books were kept. After all, foolish young students who experimented with newly found spells in the Archive towers would only blow out a wall or two. Down here, they could cave in half the mountain.

Mystical knowledge upstairs with brilliant unicorn students, plebeian histories and outdated miscellaneous content down in the carved tunnels and storage vaults with earth pony students carrying firefly lanterns and getting hopelessly lost. Well, not lost lost, per se, since there were arrows pointing the way back to the stairs, but lost as in finding a needle in a haystack would have been simple by comparison.

“Fudge,” he muttered at the end of the shelving corridor where the last book index mocked him. “Nine ninety one point two seven two to point two seven three. Where in Tartarus is two seven five?”

He dropped the Easy Canterlot Deep Archives stack guide on the stone floor and regarded it by the flickering light of the firefly lantern. The artist certainly had enjoyed their work, with large illustrations of the various subjects as well as the ‘Here Bea Dragones’ scrollwork over the section of draconic content, but the numbers were written in tiny squiggles, with none of the fractions specifying what he was looking for.

“Another nine ninety one over there,” muttered Emerald to himself. “All I have to do is backtrack out of this section, up two levels, around there, down three levels… There’s got to be a shortcut.”

On the map, the two sections of storage were only a tiny bit apart, separated by a square object labelled EE in orange lettering. A short walk past a series of decaying periodicals brought him to the nearest wall, which upon searching, also showed a heavy sliding door with the same letters.

“Express Elevator,” he opined in a hopeful tone while looking in vain for a call button. There was a unicorn magic device to winch the door open and a simple lever to push for the other hornless races, but there was also a fairly obvious sign stating ‘Do not use except in emergency. Alarm will sound.’

Mail order was such a wonderful thing. Across Equestria, there were absolutely no end of industrial doors, windows, and cabinets fastened by impressive mechanical locks that needed to be accessed by a large number of ponies with special keys. Trains, for example, unfairly locked their bathroom doors while in the station, even if all you wanted to do was run a comb through your mane. One handy key ordered from an industrial supply house solved the problem. A dozen such keys ensured near-universal access to the moderately inaccessible for the enterprising young pony who rather disliked rules for other ponies being forced upon him.

“Hm… Not the elevator key,” murmured Emerald as he rummaged through his saddlebags. “Window latch, ah! Alarms.” The first notched rod inserted into the keyhole did not turn, but the second gave a cheerful click when rotated, and Emerald put his shoulder against the lever to slide the door open without any noisy drama.

“Thank you Kwicky-Lock Corp,” he murmured while replacing the key into a folder in his saddlebags. “Home of the lowest bid cheap wind-up alarms in Protocera. Save a bit, get a Kwicky.”

Once the key was tucked securely away, Emerald stepped through the doorway and looked up.

And up.

And up.

Well, as far up as the wan light of the firefly lantern would reach.

“I am officially boggled,” he murmured to himself. “Emergency Evacuation. Of course.”

It was either a giant ventilation shaft with aspirations to become a staircase, or a gargantuan square staircase that also served to pass air upwards from some lower level. In either way, the scale of the construction took Emerald’s breath away, although the low breeze of fresh air from below brought it back rather quickly. He tried to picture the staircase filled with ponies evacuating from some Canterlot disaster, marching downward with frightened foals held close until they emerged around the base of the mountain. If he squinted carefully, he could see the shadowy lumps of lighting devices along the walls, which would be activated by the unicorns as they passed. It certainly would be an impressive sight, one that he sincerely never wanted to see, ever.

Curiosity dictated that he at least look over the stone banister to see how far up and down the structure went. Perhaps there was an open door shedding light on an upper floor, or a restaurant below. He was getting hungry, and all he had hidden in his saddlebags were a bottle of apple juice and a granola bar. Even that had been difficult to smuggle past the alert noses of the elderly librarians.

The banister down the immense staircase had no sliding appeal to his inner foal, particularly since it took a sharp right angle with every landing. The pattern appeared to repeat as far up and down as he could see, with no other lights beside his. A certain sense of epic aloneness made the stairwell noplace he wanted to explore just to save some maneuvering around the insides of the much more friendly library. Well, slightly more friendly library storage. At least if he got lost in there, somepony would eventually find him before he starved to dea—

Musing about his surroundings had deafened Emerald to the quiet noise of the sliding door moving down its track, but a deaf pony would have been able to hear the crash. Of course, a deaf pony would not have jerked in reaction to the abrupt noise and lost his grip on the firefly lantern, which tumbled down the open shaft of the staircase.

Growing smaller

And smaller

Until it vanished from sight

Leaving Emerald all alone in the darkness.

Locked out of the library.

Comments ( 11 )

If you go on many cave expeditions, there's this point where they like to turn off all the lights to see what the place is like in real darkness. I mean real, real darkness, of the kind where you can't tell if your eyes are open or closed darkness. That's what poor Emerald is going through right now. With a nearby drop of several hundred feet. And a ghost somewhere.

FYI: Many old schools and industrial buildings have fire doors that are built on a sliding rail, sloped down, with a fusible link holding the door open. No electronics needed. It gets hot enough to melt the fusible link (as low as 135F/57C), the door comes rumbling shut to keep the fire from spreading. Engineers rock.

He'll get fined for breaking the lantern and letting the fireflies free, too

I did a cave tour once, many years ago. Broke first and triggered my keyring torch.

The one legged guide wasnt happy.

His obituary was in the paper a couple years ago.

He still wont be happy if I go back. :pinkiesad2:

That's weird. There's usually some conveniently glowing lichen or mystical crystals hanging around in caves

Nine ninety one point two seven two to point two seven three.

Huh. 991 isn't assigned in the Dewey Decimal System, but it is part of history. Where better to put the history of a fictional location? (Though apparently 999 is for extraterrestrial history.)

In any case... yeah, this does not bode well. At least there's a simple way out. Not necessarily easy, but simple.

Assuming the strong chance that having climbed to either end, the door will still be locked, which way would you go?

Or Mithril. It's surprising they bothered keeping their torches lit.

5403523 5403549 Since it's an evacuation route, it would be stupid to lock the exit door. Of course, it could take unicorn magic to open, much like the lights....
5403521 I love the movies where they break into the ancient tomb.... with lit torches all around. "Dude, forget the gold. I'm taking some of these. Find out how they burned for five centuries and we could make far more money than all that gold."
5403479 He's certainly not getting the damage deposit back.

An Earth Pony could also open a stone door (I wonder if those emergency tunnels were actually as old as Fancy Panta assumed...?)

I am unable to suppress my desire to see 'death of a thousand papercuts' changed to 'death by a thousand papercuts'

5403827 Yes, an earth pony could open a stone door at the exit using his earth pony magic. Emerald can't even sprout bean seeds with his. Time to sing the Doom Song.

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