Bone Marrow had waited in the dusty town hall for only ten minutes before he began to worry. The Diamond Dogs had not returned and the rest of the town was nowhere no be seen. Pacing in circles on the worn rug in the center of the hall, the bone raven sat perched on the second floor's wooden safety railing to stare at him.
"They should have been back by now," Bone anxiously voiced, "Why haven't they come back?"
Looking up to the raven, Bone was again greeted by its silent and eyeless stare. The bird still moved as if it had feathers, preening the empty air between its bones and fidgeting in discomfort. The foal looked away, attempting to focus on a single problem at a time.
"Okay... nopony has come back yet, but there hasn't been any yelling or fighting. That's a good thing... right?" Bone asked nopony in particular. Looking to the vacant doorway and half hoping to see the large Diamond Dog standing there, his worry only deepened when a strand of torn cloth flew past in the wind. Caught between the risk of going out to search and causing trouble for those he cared about or the 'safety' of remaining in the town hall, Bone unknowingly edged closer and closer to the doorway as he weighed the benefits of each. If he remained in the hall, the Diamond Dogs would know where he was and wouldn't punish anypony for staying put. On the other hoof, they would know exactly where he was, and that was a bad thing for his continued existence. His parents and the town would know where he was as well, but he didn't know where they were at the same time.
Bone groaned aloud towards the cracking roof of the town hall, wiping away a line of dust that had broken through the roof tiles in the same moment. "Why does this have to be so complicated!"
The skeleton raven seemed to tire of Bone's inaction and flew down from its perch towards the foal. Still occupied with wiping debris from his eyes, he barely cared that the bird decided to nest in his mane. He was far more concerned with finding his parents than the possible health hazard that a recently deceased and magically resurrected avian might present to him.
"Well, nopony else is being useful I guess," Bone assumed, looking around the still empty hall one last time before exiting through the broken doorway into the equally dusty streets. For the first time Bone noticed the pile of bodies in the intersection and turned away just as quickly as he had seen it. "Oh, Celestia!"
While Bone was busy covering his mouth and doing his best to retain what little bread he had eaten a few hours ago, the skeleton raven decided that the pile of dead was a much more comfortable place to nest than the foals head, and flew directly to the top of the pile to begin biting a hemi-sphere of flesh from the topmost dead griffon corpse. Curious as to what the noise was, Bone instantly regretted his curiosity and immediately failed to maintain hold of his lunch.
"Would you quit that!?" Bone weakly complained after regaining the ability to speak from between dry-heaves. "That's gross!"
With a blood covered face and body, the raven looked up at Bone before cocking its head sideways. Soon after, the skeleton climbed out of its now impressive crater that had been pecked and shredded out of the griffon's stomach. Waiting patiently for Bone to stop convulsing, the raven resumed its pointless preening ritual.
Sitting far away from his pile of sickness contained by clotted dirt, Bone Marrow stared at his gore covered 'companion' with a mixture of concern and opportunity. He had the ability to raise dead birds, as far as he had discovered so far, but what if it was a greater talent than that? Maybe it could be larger birds, or maybe just bird-like things? Maybe they didn't have to have wings, or maybe they didn't even have to be animals!
His excitement grew along with his stomach's protest at the ideas flowing through his mind while staring at the pile of dead. What if they could talk? What if they didn't want to listen to him, or if they just went off to do their own thing like nothing had happened. At that moment another thought entered his head: Were they now his responsibility since he had returned them to life?
Looking to the raven and tapping the dirt in front of him with a hoof, Bone called out, "Hey raven, can you come here?"
Immediately and obediently the raven glided from its pile of corpses to Bone's hoof and remained standing there, staring at him like usual.
"This is kind of strange, but if my special talent is dead things, or bringing dead things back to not-dead-ness, then does that make me... your parent?" Bone cautiously asked, half expecting an answer and half certain he was going insane.
To his surprise, the bird nodded. Unsurprisingly and a bit to Bone's disgust, a drop of blood fell from the bird's beak in the same moment before being absorbed into a brown clump on the ground.
"Okay... so that means if I use my special talent on anything else, then... um..." Bone tried to reason, before his mind failed him and his train of thought was lost. "Like..." Bone attempted to restart, but again couldn't come up with something to finish his thought. His face scrunching in frustration, the foal tucked his hooves close to his chest and made displeased and grumpy noises.
His raven, thankfully, had caught on to the train of thought and pecked the foal's hind hoof. The sharp jolt of pain caught Bone's attention and annoyance, giving the raven opportunity for his pointing wing bones to be noticed. Looking from the raven to the pile of dead and becoming more confused, the skeleton bird decided to make its point painfully obvious. Flapping to the heap of corpses and pecking at them once more, the raven revealed the femur of a dead earth pony bandit and began tugging at it towards Bone.
"What do you want me to do, move them?" Bone asked, moving closer to the raven and the dead. "They're way bigger than I am. There's no way I can carry them!"
Dropping a chunk of flesh and staring once more at Bone Marrow, the bird suddenly took off and landed on the foal's horn and pointed once more with its wing towards the pile of dead.
"You... want me to magic them?" Bone reasoned, giving a nervous smirk. "Can I do that?" Another peck from the raven to Bone's horn was message clear enough. "Ow! Alright!"
Looking at the pile of dead and no longer feeling sick, Bone tried to focus on them, reaching out with his magic like he had to do in order to grasp a pen. He tried to lift them, to pull them, to shake or move them in any way, but only became tired from his efforts. He shoved them manually, yelled at them, even bargained with the pile of bodies, demanded they get up, begged them to do something and all to no success. A solid hour of time or longer was spent; Bone wasn't keeping track. His world had become consumed by figuring out how to get these bodies to move again like he had with the bird.
Becoming more frustrated, Bone sat down roughly in the dirt with his hooves once again crossed in front of his chest. "I can't do it! These dumb bodies won't listen to me and I tried everything!"
At that point his raven flew away from him to the interior of the town hall. Too exhausted to move, Bone decided to tilt sideways onto the dirt and simply lay there. It was more comfortable than sitting on his flank and he was seriously beginning to worry that his talent remained solely with raising skeleton birds at this point. As he was about to fall asleep from his efforts, Bone was struck in the face with something cold and metallic. His eyes shot open to find his father's pocket watch dangling in front of his face, swinging back and forth like a grandfather clock and poking his nose on the return swing.
"Huh?" Bone blurted, pushing his upper half from the ground to get a better look. "What's that for?"
The swinging of the watch hastened before it was tossed onto the pile of bodies by the raven. Before Bone could protest, the raven landed on his horn once more and pointed to the bodies.
"What is a watch going to help with?" Bone complained. "It's just a watch."
Another peck from the raven urged the unicorn onward, and he once again tried to get them to move. He pushed them, pulled them, shook them and poked them. He asked for them to stand and he shouted for them to get up. He weakly punched them for not getting up and gave in to his frustrations, sitting once more on the ground.
"Alright, if this doesn't work, then I'm doomed to bringing back thief birds for the rest of my life." Bone sighed. One last time, he tried to affect as much of the pile as he could, wishing they would just get up and help him search for his parents and the rest of the town, that they would help keep him safe, that they would stop being dead. He shut his eyes in concentration and focused intensely on the dead, forcing his thoughts to somehow be made reality.
Much to his surprise and delight, they were.
The bodies shifted, they molted. The griffons began falling apart just as the raven had. Feathers became ash and fell down to the corpses below. Flesh melted and turned to grey dust. One by one, bodies began to shake off what remained of their skin and muscle into the growing mound of soot and ash beneath them, prying themselves from the other bodies and standing aside from another. Pegasus, Griffons, Diamond Dogs, Earth Ponies and Unicorns all in skeleton form and surrounding Bone like a small army.
The foal was wide eyed in terror, frozen in place from what he was seeing. He knew he had brought the bird back of course, but this was on a whole new level. He thought he should probably see how many of each he had, but at the same time he was more concerned if they were about to tear into him just as his raven had torn their own bodies to shreds just moments ago.
"Uh... friends?" Bone offered, sticking a hoof out and very anxiously smiling towards them. He couldn't tell if they were smiling back as they had no lips, but judging from their silent stares and passive stance he assumed they would play nice. "Okay then," He added, slowly lowering his hoof to the ground and doing his best to maintain a neutral expression. "So... you're all dead and I brought you back. I think." Scratching the side of his eye, Bone Marrow was at a loss for words.
All the skeletons in front of him simply stood there, waiting and watching.
"Can you look the other way for a second? You're kind of creeping me out..." Bone asked. He had expected them to continue staring at him like his raven would, but they immediately obeyed his command. They turned on their paws, hooves or claws to face away from Bone in a semi-circle formation with him at the center. Finding his mouth suddenly dry, Bone gulped in reaction to both the situation he found himself in as well as his need for a drink.
"Maybe this is why the adults drink so much cider. If any of their special talents are as scary as this, no wonder they get nervous around foals; they could have anything!" Bone reasoned excitedly to himself. He was grown up now! The revelation had once again occurred that this confirmed he had his cutie mark now, which made him better than a blank flank. He was pretty sure that nopony else could make a group of bodies move like this, but at the same time he was very glad that his special talent was nothing as boring as wielding a sword or throwing fireballs. "The royal guard are going to be so happy when they get back from training! They'll have a whole bunch of new friends to practice with, and all of these bandits can actually help them instead of being mean!"
After a moment's realization, Bone was reminded that he hadn't seen the Diamond Dogs or anypony else for that matter for a long time. Night had snuck up on him as he saw the moon making its steady advance overhead. To his surprise, there was a face on the moon now. "Whoa." Bone gasped as a smile spread on his face. "That's so cool! Thanks Princess Luna!"
After doing his best to fall asleep inside of the town hall, since it was night time, Bone Marrow found it was impossible to do so. The town hall was filled with skeletons of every kind along with his raven sitting near his head. The town was still missing along with his parents, and the Diamond Dogs were still nowhere to be seen. He could keep sitting on his hooves or he could use his new friends to go and find his parents, and he decided to do just that.
"Hey, everypony!" Bone called out, attracting the horde of skeleton's attention. "We're gonna find everypony else, okay! Don't hurt anypony, just the Diamond Dogs. They're really mean and nopony likes them."
To his disappointment, the skeletons remained where they were. Staring at him. Silently.
"Oh come on! Follow me, and do what I say, okay?" Bone ordered, pushing away the rug he had wrapped around himself like a blanket in order to sleep. "We're gonna go into the mines, find my family and friends, then we're gonna kick the Diamond Dogs out of town."
Very confident in his ability, Bone took his father's pocket watch and clipped it around his neck as a good luck charm. Taking the lead and marching out of the Town Hall, he was happy to see his band of skeletons following after him. When the raven landed on his head again, a thought occurred to him.
"I should really name you, shouldn't I? I mean, you're the first thing I brought back... that sounds so weird. I'm talking about bringing things back to life like its normal now," Bone digressed. "Anyway! I should find a name for you, and I think we can find more friends to help us look, don't you think?"
The raven nodded in agreement, and the two spent another indeterminate amount of time scouring the small town of Scoria for the dead. Bone's 'friends' helped pile the dead at the intersection once more, soon finding a great many bodies than he had originally assumed there to be. As they flew in he started to count, eventually reaching a final total of thirty earth ponies, five unicorns, seven pegasus, ten griffons and four Diamond Dogs including the skeletons he already had.
"Wow." Bone Marrow blinked, taking in the sight of dead and recently-un-dead-ed. "Well, guess there's no time like the... after-present?"
Looking amongst the army of skeletons, Bone was somewhat deflated by the fact that none of them had an ability to appreciate his sense of humor. Or laugh, for that matter. "I thought it was funny. After-life, After-present, cause you're all not really dead... never mind."