Rushing winds and the tight grip that held Bone Marrow pulled his mind away from the past and firmly back into the present when the pair of leathery wings holding the two ponies in the air suddenly went for a dive. The ground rushed towards the both of them, the gravity and impending doom causing the young foal to slam his eyes shut against both the wind and the terrifying speed that he thought he would meet with the ground.
To his relief, the ground was not scheduled for an impact that day.
The bat pony pulled away from the soaked grass beneath them moments before collision, sharply jerking his neck and opening his eyes with shock as what little wind he could hold in his lungs was knocked free. Soon after, he was placed on the ground in a foal-sized heap of coughing and sputtering as he attempted to breathe once again. The foal-napper landed beside him, sheathing her black dagger in a metallic holder on her side before staring down at the emaciated unicorn in front of her.
"So fragile for a necromancer," the pony mused. The battle for the town waxed in the distance, shouts of conflict and screams of pain becoming muffled on the windy landscape that Bone Marrow found himself on. His coughing had become manageable now, and steady breathing was once again a part of his life. "Are you able to stand?"
Bone Marrow looked up with his blue glowing eyes, illuminating the slit yellow orbs that greeted him in the darkness. Pointed fangs protruded downward from the mare's face. A dark cowl covered most of her, along with the dark purple robes secured to her body with strips of tightly bound cloth. Bone Marrow guessed they would help her fly better somehow if she wasn't constantly needing to chase after a robe that flew off all the time, so the outfit made sense to him.
The mare waved a hoof in front of the young necromancer's muzzle. "Hello? Has your mind not been resurrected along with your body?"
Bone Marrow blinked a few times, his expression clueless. "Uh, no? I can stand, I think."
The yellow orbs rolled. "Well get on your hooves then. I'm not going to wait outside all day while you figure out which hoof goes in front of the other."
Bone Marrow, confused as ever, did as he was told. Standing to his hooves with a bit of strain, he looked up at the impatient bat pony. No sooner had his mouth opened to ask a question did she turn around, the implied course of action being to follow her.
Now, this scene was beginning to trigger some alarm bells with Bone Marrow. The Royal Guard had done this exact same scenario, but the last time he attempted escape he had gotten himself lost in an unfamiliar mine. He could of course attempt to run off again, not follow the bat pony and make his escape, but where would that get him? Bone Marrow shook his head. This time, he would see where the stranger would take him. It's not like he could die or anything, right? At least permanently...
Walking further away from the battle behind them, Bone Marrow soon spotted an encampment of tents, guards and more than a few spears being assembled in his direction. Looking past the cool-tempered bat pony, his worry only grew as shouts rang out across the camp. He became worried that he was being lead straight to a Royal Guard encampment, but the armoring was all different. Darker tones of purple, silver and black were the main representation, not gold.
"Ready yourselves!" The batpony mare called out ahead of Bone Marrow and herself to the gathering group. "A Necromancer approaches. Do not injure him!"
Bone Marrow was confused even more now. How did so many ponies know more about necromancy than he did? Was that the actual name of his cutie mark, or was that simply what everypony called it? It was supposed to be his special talent, yet constantly he ran into ponies that seemed to have some education about it. Maybe they would teach him? Or, as Bone Marrow thought a bit harder, maybe they wanted to use him.
The bat pony turned her head to the thoughtful foal. "Don't hurt any of my soldiers, Necromancer."
Bone's eyes shifted from staring at the ground in thought to staring at the leather-wing in front of him. "O-okay," He blurted, "I wasn't really planning on it anyway."
The two walked through the guarded section of the camp, all eyes heavy with suspicion or fear when faced with the small unicorn. They had heard tales of necromancers before, especially after the wanted posters had gone out all over Equestria for the very pony that walked between their tents now. White coat, blue eyes and dark hair. Most importantly of all features, however, was the glowing skull that resided where a pupil should be in each eye. The significance of that feature had been repeated for weeks since the necromancer's disappearance, and now he was being lead into the camp.
More than a few guards peeled off from the main group to rush towards the wounded members of the camp, fearing that the foal might put some kind of spell on the sick and injured to turn them into the undead. Others simply scowled and moved well out of Bone's way, their mouths eager to draw their sword and hack the necromancer amongst them to pieces. They had been told that killing a necromancer was horrible news for all involved, but they hadn't been told anything beyond that.
The bat pony came to a large tent and pulled at one of the flaps. "In here, Necromancer." She was impatient, tense, and her wings twitched. Bone Marrow once again decided that doing what he was told this time would be the best action for now. He could come up with a plan of escape later, just to figure everything out that was happening to him.
Walking inside, Bone Marrow found himself on relatively dry grass. Fresh green blades swished past his small hooves during his entrance to the tent, his sight greeted by maps, scrolls and the occasional book used as a paperweight for yet more maps of importance. A small cot sat near the 'wall' of the tent next to a steaming cup of mystery liquid, one that Bone Marrow hoped was tea and not some other kind of crazy brew. Lit by candles and exuding a somewhat welcoming atmosphere, the tent flap abruptly fell behind him. The sounds of battle were a distant background noise now, only faintly heard if he really listened for it.
Bone Marrow's attention was immediately seized by movement across from him; another hooded figure that hadn't moved since his entrance. "Please," The soothing voice suggested, "Have a seat."
There was a rich texture to this pony's voice, somewhat deep and warming at the same time. Like being wrapped in a ball of blankets on a rainy day. Bone Marrow was surprised to see that the pony greeting him was yet another Bat Pony, this time a stallion of impressive build. His armor was plated and dark, etched with silver details and a royal purple elsewhere. A short cloak was hung nearby along with a plated helmet, decorative metal bat wings on each side of the helm.
"Have you eaten recently, young pony?" The voice asked, pushing a plate of something from the shadowed corner of the tent into the candle light. It was an oval shaped slab of... something. Bone Marrow had never seen anything like it in his life before, yet somehow it seemed familiar. "It is meat, somewhat freshly acquired for you."
Bone Marrow's face immediately contorted with disgust, pushing the plate away from him. "Meat? What do I need meat for!?"
The pony sitting opposite the necromancer was patient, pointing to the slab of flesh with an armored hoof. "You are neither dead, nor living. You are no longer a pony. Your body will not sustain itself off of oats and bread, nor apples or pears. You are weak, starving even. Eat the meat and regain your strength."
Once again, ceramic slid across wood to bring the odd smelling meal closer to Bone Marrow. He looked down at it again with uncertainty and uneasiness, poking the side of it and lifting it from the plate until gravity caused the flesh to slap itself against the plate with a splatter of red blood. Bone grimaced, pulling the plate closer to himself and questioned what lead him to this point in his life, that he would be eating what was probably some-pony else.
The dark hooded stallion seemed to sense this very internal debate happening within the young necromancer. "The meat in front of you was taken from the body of a cow, recently passed from a heart attack brought on by the conflict outside."
Still not entirely trusting of the soothing voice that told him to eat meat, Bone Marrow poked at his 'food' once more, noting that it smelled fairly horrible to him. "Isn't there... I dont know, something that could be done about... all of this?" He gestured to the plate in front of him, the raw slab of meat and the blood that dripped messily from the side of the plate onto a strategically placed hoof-kerchief.
The stallion chuckled. "I've never known a necromancer to be a picky eater, but I suppose we could have it cooked."
Bone's eyes went wide. "Cooked!?"
"Well, you want less blood. You want less mess. Roasting flesh over a fire is a sure way to achieve both ends, and produce a more... interesting smell."
Now the foal was even more uncomfortable, the thought of slowly turning a dead cow over an open flame coming to mind and giving him reason to shut his eyes, attempting to banish the thought from memory.
"There we are..." The voice muttered.
In confusion, Bone Marrow opened his eyes to the sight of a nearly empty plate, save for the singular T-bone that existed in the center. A color of pure white that only bleach could provide. "What..." Bone whispered, "What happened?"
The stallion smiled, his fanged teeth prominent in the light. "You've eaten meat, Necromancer. Though, most likely not in the manner you were expecting."
A thought came to Bone Marrow quite suddenly after the revelation that he had somehow eaten meat without knowing. "Are you..."
"A Necromancer?" The figure interrupted with amusement. "No, though Luna has warned us many times about your kind far before her descent into madness."
"I meant... are you a vam-pony?" Bone continued, earning a scowl from the pony opposite.
The hooded figure pulled away his cowl, yellow eyes glaring through Bone Marrow's chilled blue eyes. "If you were any other pony, I'd have you hanged for that remark."
Bone put his fore hooves up in an act of surrender, "Okay, okay, my bad!"
"Vampires are an even worse plague upon Equestria than you, Necromancer, and the reason I tolerate your existence in this kingdom is that you are not a mindless thrall to some higher creature. No, you are free to act as you choose." The figure explained, first taking a deep breath to calm himself before continuing on. "A necromancer, when not hunted or thrown into lava, can be a force of good or evil. Princess Luna herself knew this fact, and many times in the past has the dark witchery of a Necromancer actually saved lives."
"But... then why is every pony so scared of me?" Bone Marrow wondered, gesturing to the guards posted outside. "Every time I even look at somepony, they look the other way!"
The Bat-pony reached for a nearby book, thick and buckled in silver. "Ponies have always been fearful of things they don't fully understand. Even more-so when the ponies they thought dead and buried come back from the grave to murder those that they once loved." With a deep breath, the pony blew dust from the cover and noisily set the book down on the table. "In this tome you will find tall tales of the Necromancers that have come before you. Most of it is complete nonsense, though some you will have already experienced first hoof."
The pages of the book flipped open with the Bat-pony's hoof, scouring page after page and lifting a final bookmark before turning the tome of tall tales to Bone Marrow. Reading the title, the foal was understandably concerned. "Necromancers Eat Foals?"
"Ignorance at it's best," the well armored pony attested, "Though it holds a grain of truth in the tale." Flipping past a few pages, the pony pointed to the dramatic visage of the necromancer. His eyes were a bright purple this time, yet held the same skull symbol within the pupils. "The mark of a Necromancer that is most difficult to hide."
Bone Marrow shook his head. "So? What does that have to do with anything?"
The book suddenly closed shut and was pushed aside. "You, dear foal, have the power to change Equestria for good or ill based upon the actions you take. No one, save those particularly gifted with magic, have a chance to stand against you forever. You may have died once, yes, but you will never stay dead. Only lava or a soul jar can trap your soul in one place."
The young unicorn simply stared at the Bat-pony across from him, a bit numb to everything he had just heard. "Why... why is that?"
"I want to use your abilities to save Equestria, Necromancer." The pony stated flatly. "There are Royal Guard in that town on a witch hunt for you, at command of Princess Celestia. They do not seek to harm you; they want to strike the same bargain that I aim to make."
Bone Marrow's head was spinning with a whirlwind of possibilities, each more confusing and upsetting than the last. Had the Royal Guard come for him in the mines only to recruit him? Had he run away like a fool, only to be picked up by stranger after stranger? What was all this talk of Princess Luna; wasn't she still around?
"What happened to Princess Luna?" Bone Marrow suddenly asked, catching the bat-pony off guard. "Why is there so much fighting all of a sudden?"
"You haven't heard?" The pony questioned, "Princess Luna has been banished to the moon."
The Moon? Bone Marrow thought with disbelief. It hadn't been an innocent design that Luna had placed on the moon, no, it had been a symbol of her banishment. She was trapped now, so far away from anypony else. "Why was she banished?" Bone Marrow demanded to know.
"She..." The pony began, seeming to find his explanation lacking, "No-pony can really say, to be completely fair with you."
Bone's glowing eyes narrowed with suspicion and intensity. He had grown up with the admiration of both Princesses. They don't simply get banished one day without explanation. "What happened?" Bone Marrow demanded again, his voice as stern as a foal could manage.
The yellow slit pupils danced back and forth with uncertainty between each of Bone Marrow's intensely glowing eyes, the threat of what sat in front of him becoming all too real very quickly. If the foal had any brains in him, he would know that his body could be devoured just as easily as the plate of meat had been previously. His only course of action now would be the complete truth, or the bat pony would witness his body disintegrate in front of his very eyes.
"Princess Luna went mad. She became a twisted monstrosity of herself named Nightmare Moon, and she sought to cover all of Equestria in an eternal night." The pony took a shaky breath before continuing, trying to keep his voice as steady as possible in the face of sudden death. "Some time ago, little over a month, Princess Luna and Princess Celestia were in a heated argument over the state of Equestria. More specifically, Luna had discovered that a large portion of the population hadn't even heard of her, not recognizing that she was one of the rulers of the nation. In that time, Princess Luna had been tasked with guarding Equestria from all that haunts us in the night. We bat-ponies joined the Princess in her vigil, ensuring that the towns far from Canterlot were under protection when the Royal Guard went to sleep."
Bone Marrow was listening intently, though his threatening gaze lessened as the story went on.
"One day over a month ago, Princess Luna challenged Princess Celestia. Luna stated that the hours of the day should be split evenly; Twelve of day and twelve of night. Celestia did not agree, and she stated that ponies would not be able to become accustomed to such a dramatic change in their lives. Princess Luna became upset and announced that all ponies would be required to stay awake for at least eight hours after the sun had fallen to appreciate her night, and all the work she had gone through for hundreds of years to ensure a peaceful slumber for a period of at least ten years." The bat pony continued, now lowering his guard and flowing with the story as the Necromancer in front of him calmed further.
"The two Princesses debated long, and neither could reach an agreement on what was to be done. Princess Luna and Celestia reportedly stormed off in opposite directions of the palace, each lamenting the stubbornness of the other. Shortly afterward, a thunderous crash was heard in Princess Luna's room. Guards of both the Moon and Sun rushed to the aid of the Princess, only to find the horror of Nightmare Moon. The guards were slain, part of the palace was cast off into the city below with a blast of magic, and the two Princesses held a duel in the midnight sky that lasted for hours."
"Eventually Nightmare Moon gained the upper hoof, sending Princess Celestia through a wall of the Palace's artifact chambers. There, the Princess was forced to use the Elements of Harmony on the creature that was once Princess Luna, and she was banished to the moon. The spell was sudden, uncontrolled, and there is no telling as to how long our Princess of the Night will be sealed away."
The bat-pony stallion was somber now, the adrenaline of his confrontation fading and being dampened further by the telling of his tale. "Now, petty nobles and lords fight to gain control over Equestria as Princess Celestia recovers from her battle with The Nightmare. Royal Guard are holding every location vital to trade and the continued existence of the nation while splinter factions have seen the fighting between the Princesses as a sign of rebellion to the rule of the Two Sisters. We of the Bright Moon believe that had Princess Celestia relented, there would never had been a Nightmare Moon, and the Knights of the Sun state that Princess Luna attempted to murder her sister to take the throne for herself, and all her followers should be executed for treason."
"And the Royal Guard in the town outside?" Bone Marrow asked, his hoof pointing in the general direction of the combat still faintly heard.
"Knights of the Sun," The pony explained with a sigh, "They hunt for members of the Night Watch. They do not mean to cause chaos, nor do they seek to be murderers. In their own confused way, they seek justice for what has happened to Princess Celestia. I would see justice be done as well, though we cannot do that by dividing ourselves amongst the Princesses."
"How do I help? I'm just a foal that recently learned they could make dead things not-so-dead again. I don't see how that is supposed to help anypony." Bone Marrow countered, now interested more in what could be done than in an escape attempt. It seemed like a big development was happening with Equestria and he decided that helping out would be a better way of spending his time than running around starving, lost someplace forever.
The pony took a deep breath as he thought over his reply carefully. "I need you to cause distractions with the dead. Raise them and terrorize the cities we say, so The Bright Moon can swoop in to save the day. Each city saved will give us more supporters, and draw away from the Knights of the Sun. Eventually, if we can convince the ponies of Equestria to not hunt down each other in some blind grasping at justice, or hold on long enough for Princess Celestia to recover from her fight, then in the end we will have saved lives rather than caused a Civil War between ponies."
This idea didn't sit well with Bone Marrow. It seemed wrong somehow, like benefiting from misery that he would be blamed for so these 'Bright Moon' could play the hero. Bone had been read enough bed-time stories about heroes, he had seen how to be one, how to save the day a thousand times before breakfast. Tales of Princess Luna and Princess Celestia fighting the big-bad Discord and saving all of Equestria from chaos and terror came to mind the most often.
Bone Marrow realized that his own talents might not be the same as the Princesses of the Sun and Moon, but he could still help out and be the hero he so desperately wanted to be without playing scapegoat for a questionable group of ponies; all of which hadn't even offered their name.
Bone shook his head at the bat-pony in front of him. "I won't help you, mister bat-pony. I don't trust you, and none of this seems right to me. There has to be a better way than terrorizing ponies to get your way, or murdering every pony that you think might be traitors."
The impulse to simply command the foal to do as he said rose quickly in the Bat pony, before his brain reminded him of his intense need to preserve his own life and the realization that a Necromancer, however small, sat in front of him. The foal would not help, and there was little he would be able to do about this directly. He sat back into his chair, ideas of how best to play this new situation to his advantage playing out in his mind.
"Thank you for the... um, the meat, I guess." Bone Marrow added, pushing the plate with a single T-Bone away from him and sliding off of his chair into the grassy ground below. "The flying was kind of nice too."
"Necromancer." The bat pony spoke suddenly, "I have a question for you, before you leave."
Bone's brow furrowed with interest. "Yeah?"
"What will you do? You are a wanted pony and all will know your face. You have nowhere to hide, you likely have no idea where you are, you have no meat to sustain yourself and you are alone."
Bone Marrow looked at the plate in front of him and then to himself. He had been expecting the thin rib-cage of emaciation but was emboldened by the sight of his old healthy body. Bone Marrow supposed that the meat he had 'eaten' explained this sudden change, especially since it was really cool. Taking a breath, and with a somewhat vague goal in mind, he moved for the tent's door.
"I really don't know what I'm going to do, Mister bat-pony. You're right that I'm lost and I have no place to go, but I don't really need any of that, do I? I just need a few dead ponies at my side to go from place to place, a helpful bit of clothing to blend in like those cool books about spies, and... and random dead things, I guess." Bone Marrow was about to leave before he asked the mysterious pony, "What's your name, by the way?"
The pony grimaced at the question, "It is never wise to tell a Necromancer your name." After a short while however, he reconsidered. "You may call me Anvil. It is a pen-name, and others will know who you speak of if you wish to reconsider."
"Try not to get killed, It'll make talking with you slightly more difficult." Bone chuckled, unintentionally sending shivers up the Batpony's spine, especially since it was the laugh of a foal twisted with the knowledge of how large a threat the unicorn was.
Soon after, the small necromancer used his magic to lift the short cloak from the rack in order to conceal himself, slipping out of the tent and sprinting away from the encampment.