Now dear reader, you may be wondering about skeletal minions, the second most important skill available to us Necromancers.
Bone was still reading his recently pilfered book underneath his bed while Scenic wandered around the palace. She wanted to find something to eat for the both of them, and it gave ample opportunity to learn more.
In moments of my own loneliness or insanity, I've noticed crucial things about our undead friends. Anything that you know, or are capable of, your skeletons will mimic. Yes, you've read this correctly.
They are not simply mindless servants. As we are born necromancers, our gift allows a spreading of our own mind to our servants, noted by a glowing of the eyes similar to our own. Their personalities will be based on your own, their actions dictated by your command or mood, and their ability to kill your enemies or defend themself will be based on your own.
If you have no skill with a blade or crossbow, neither will your skeletons. You might make up for this in numbers, as they are reasonably difficult to kill since they lack vital organs, but better trained and magically inclined ponies will decimate them effortlessly. Spend a few decades of your time learning the arts of warfare and you will have an army strong enough to strike fear into the hearts of those that would seek to kill you.
A large note: Your skeletons cannot cast magic. Attempting to cast a spell you know through your skeletons that is not tied to your natural abilities, or having the skeleton cast it through your shared memory, will cause it to disintegrate into a pile of ash. For this reason, unicorns or other magical beings should be the first priority of your army. We have no counter to their spellcraft aside from a blade or bolt through the neck.
Bone looked inquisitively at the skeletons guarding the room's door. "Hey, skeletons?"
All six looked in his direction.
"Can you wander around the castle and find Scenic Sights for me?"
They nodded, one moving to open the door for the others as they filed out of the room. The final skeleton closed the door behind it.
"That's so cool..."
As you may have noticed, your skeletons have a tendency to stand idly when not ordered to do anything. This is not a limitation of ability, but a limitation of your own imagination. Have them gather water for you, have them cook, clean, whatever else. If you've happened upon a particularly defenseless settlement, perhaps you could exchange the protection of your undead servants for safe housing. The ponies you come across are far more likely to grovel in the dirt for their lives or flee in terror, but there's always the odd few that stray from the flock.
Your minions do not require micromanagement. Instruct them with a general goal, and they will carry out that task until your own death. I myself have used skeletons to guard false hiding locations, just to spite the Knights of the Sun in their never-ending search for me.
A slow knock came to the door before being opened. A skeleton stood in the doorway with Scenic in tow, fairly confused.
The young necromancer crawled from under his bed with a wide grin, "It worked! I love this book!"
She looked up at the disguised skeleton, "Your book told you how to fetch ponies?"
He nodded, "That, and so much more! Every page I read is like a whole world of possibilities that I hadn't even thought of!"
Scenic smiled, moving past the skeleton and into the room. "Anything else exciting happen while I was gone?"
Bone shook his head, "No, just reading."
The filly leaned towards her friend with an air of conspiracy, "You'll never guess what I ran into out in the main entryway..."
Bone's ears perked with interest. "What was it?"
The two looked at each other for a moment, mischievous smiles spreading on their face.
"Should we go see it?"
"You bet your flank we're gonna see a dragon!"
The two foals poked their heads cautiously around the corner, spotting the large fire breathing lizard on the far end of the hall. Scales of amethyst, a belly of jade and sharp spines that ran down its backside of a gleaming emerald. It was far larger than anything Bone had seen before in his life, its head lowered enough to fit into the palace by just barely hitting the roof.
"It's huge!" Bone whispered excitedly, "How do they get so big?"
Scenic shrugged, "Should we go up and ask it?"
"What if it eats me?"
Scenic decided to take the initiative by shoving her friend out into the center of the hallway, soon following after. The dragon's attention shifted to the two tiny ponies, its head turning to look with a large eye in their direction.
"What is this?" The smokey dragon rumbled, "Does Princess Celestia allow hatchlings to roam her halls now?"
The two friends cautiously approached the looming mass of fire and scales, noting that it was holding something between its claws.
"Who are you?" Bone asked as politely as he could. He didn't want to anger it somehow and have to climb out of the dragon's ashes after being eaten.
The dragon's head slithered down to the floor, appearing far more agile than either foal had thought. Its face was larger than their bodies combined, an eye filling the same space as they did in the hall. The sides of the reptile's slit eyes flicked in a blink as it considered their question.
"Why should I tell you?"
"Um..." Scenic stumbled aloud, "We could be friends?"
A puff of smoke jetted from the dragon's nose with a huff of amusement. "And what makes you think that I would seek to befriend a filly and a colt?"
Bone looked up, testing the dragon's reaction to his own glowing eyes by pulling his hood down.
The action caused the dragon to perform a double take, first glancing towards the colt before a second look revealed something that gave it pause.
"You're... a necromancer?"
Bone nodded. "I'm here in the palace as a guest, though it feels more like being a prisoner since I'm not allowed to leave Canterlot."
The dragon's head moved upwards, shifting its focus to the colt with both eyes glinting in the candle-lit hallway.
"Curious that a pony like yourself still lives, then." The dragon squinted as it re-evaluated their worth. "I am called Skewer, Necromancer."
The foals then introduced themselves. "My name is Bone Marrow, and this is my friend Scenic Sights."
A razor sharp claw moved slowly towards the ponies, a single digit extending outwards. "Pleased to make your acquaintance, then."
Bone and Scenic reached out hooves of their own, each taking a side of the dragon's large nail to shake it.
"What's with the thing you're holding," Scenic asked, "It is a gift?"
Skewer held out their palm to the foals, revealing a small spiked oval. "It is one of my eggs, and yes, It is like a gift."
Scenic was impressed, "You're a filly dragon! That's why you look so pretty!"
Another puff of smoke came from Skewer's nose, "That's correct, though the claim of beauty is subjective. Ponies are easily impressed."
Bone was skeptical, "Why would you give a gift to Celestia? She's kind of mean from what I've seen."
Skewer held her green and purple egg between two sharp nails, examining it like a gemstone. "It is the smallest of my clutch, and each dragon is required to return at least one of her eggs each laying as a peace offering between the Pony of the Sun and all of the Dragon-kin." She shook her claw, rolling the egg back into her protective palm. "The days are hot enough in the Dragon-lands, and we don't want the sun making things any hotter."
"Celestia is threatening you with the sun if you don't give her eggs?"
Skewer shook her head. "Not an accurate summary; the situation is more complicated than that. We give Princess Celestia an egg every few hundred years and she ensures that the sun stays just close enough that nothing else will attempt to invade our lands, but far enough that we can still survive."
Scenic was now confused. "I thought dragons like the heat?"
The dragon held a proud claw to her reflective chest, "We dragons care little for lava and the like, that is true. However, our eggs are more sensitive to the heat; their shells requiring our protection from the liquefied rock."
The young necromancer tapped a hoof to his chin in thought, "You live in volcanoes then?"
Skewer smiled, rows of metallic spikes doubling as teeth being revealed. "That is true, Bone Marrow. We control the volcanoes of the world."
Bone looked to his friend, a plan forming in his mind. "So, what would it take to be a friend of all dragons?"
The reptile's brow raised in surprise. "Befriend the dragons? You're fairly smart for your age."
He shrugged, "You'd be the first to say it."
Skewer's sharp claw scratched across the amethyst surface of her chin, "Well, there is something you could do that no other pony could. Tell me, have you created a soul jar before?"
Bone nodded, wondering where this was going.
"There is a particular dragon among us that has killed its own kind. They've taken hoards from their fellow kin and escaped capture for centuries." Skewer pointed a razor sharp claw at the small necromancer below her, "With a soul jar, you could tear the soul from his body no matter where he chooses to hide, and we could cast it into the volcanoes of the dragon lands to be rid of him once and for all. In exchange, we will prevent your own death for the next millenia should Celestia attempt to kill you. What do you say, Necromancer?"
His ears folded down with suspicion. Never Trust Strangers.
"I'll give you time to think on it," Skewer relented. "Should you be interested, the dragon's name is Scald."
"How long will you be here?" Scenic inquired, "We can't leave Canterlot to come and find you."
"Knowing Princess Celestia, I will be here for days. This is the first hour of my arrival, and it is customary for her to greet visitors when they have had a moment to rest."
A steady approach of metal against marble came from around the corner, an uninformed guard yelping in surprise at the sight of not only a dragon in the hallway, but a necromancer as well. He gave a shaky salute before turning around to quickly trot in the opposite direction.
Skewer smiled once more, "That pony should be on his way to inform Celestia of my visit."
Scenic's stomach then chose an appropriate moment to complain of its lack of things to digest, grumbling loudly.
"You didn't find anything to eat?" Bone asked, "Nopony in the whole palace had food?"
The filly shrugged, "They had plenty of food, but I was thinking we could try going out into Canterlot again now that you're feeling better."
Bone hummed with worry, "Won't Celestia come looking for me again?"
She nudged her friend, pulling his hood over his muzzle again. "Not if you talk with her. Try telling her about Luna and maybe she'll leave us alone for once."
Scenic had decided to wait by the front gates of the palace while Bone went to confront the Solar Monarch. She reasoned that it would be a more genuine appeal to peace than if she was by his side.
The young necromancer hesitated a moment, his hoof hovering just next to the gilded door that lead into the throne room. Glancing at a nearby guard in an attempt to stall for time, the guard instead opted to get the necromancer away from him as expediently as possible, opening the door and revealing the Princess beyond.
Celestia was partly through eating a banana when the doors opened to an awkward Bone Marrow lowering his hoof.
"I could come back later, if you're busy..."
She finished the first part of her lunch, setting the banana's peel on a golden plate before replying. "Come in, Bone Marrow."
Tiny colt hooves tapped along the marble tile of the throne room, the noise echoing through the empty space.
"I wanted to talk to you," Bone voiced as he neared the table. "About what I saw last night."
Celestia seemed surprised, "What you saw?"
He nodded, finding a cushion to sit on. "When you asked me to see if Princess Luna was still alive, I saw something through her eyes. She was in the middle of a field of grey rocks, surrounded by small specks of light with a massive orb in the distance."
"There were tiny yellow lights in corners of it, but one side was entirely dark and the other was lit by another orb that was even further away. I don't know where Princess Luna is, but I know she's alive... and she said that she was sorry."
Celestia's ears shot upward in surprise, "She was sorry?"
"Well," The necromancer shrugged, "That's what she wrote in the rocks. 'I'm sorry, Sister.'"
The princess was silent with thought for a moment, her hooves tapping against each other with a metallic clink.
"What brought on this change of heart?" She finally asked, "Was it your friend, Scenic?"
Bone thought about lying, taking the credit of the idea for himself to look better in Celestia's opinion and lowering her chances of killing him. It wouldn't matter in the end, he decided. Bone was certain she would kill him one way or another, no matter what she said to the contrary.
"Yeah, Scenic said that I should 'extend an olive branch', whatever that means."
Celestia smirked, "I'm glad to see you coming to your senses, Bone Marrow."
Bone moved away at the compliment, not trusting if it was genuine or just manipulation. "I also wanted to talk about being free to explore Canterlot, without you coming to drag me back."
The smirk vanished, Celestia's face becoming a mask of poise. "Why do you need to leave the palace?"
Bone felt a spark of annoyance at the princess' comment. "Because I don't want to be a prisoner for the rest of eternity."
The princess closed her eyes and took a calming breath. "I apologize, Bone Marrow. I am accustomed to dealing with ponies and creatures far more sinister than you."
"So, is that a yes?"
Princess Celestia nodded. "You've not killed a single pony since arriving here in Canterlot. So long as that continues, you are free to explore the city."
Bone hid his smile under his hood, standing from his cushion to move for the door. "Thanks, Celestia."
She gave no reply, instead moving to finish her meal as a fork stabbed into a stack of pancakes.
The colt walked down the golden steps leading out of the palace, his friend waiting for him at the gate.
"What did she say?"
Bone looked up and smiled, "We're free to walk around!"
Scenic's hooves tapped happily against the ground, "Where should we go first?"
He scratched his chin, "Um... anywhere is good. Anywhere that isn't the palace, at least."
The filly tapped her wing with a hoof, "Guess what I smuggled out?"
Bone's eyes widened, "How has nopony noticed that yet?"
Scenic shrugged, "Does it matter? Now you can study and explore!"
The book then brought something to the young necromancer's attention. "My skeletons are still in the palace. Should we take them with us? They're disguised for a reason and it might stop ponies from trying to kill us or something."
"Why would anypony kill us," Scenic questioned, "We're just walking around."
Bone pointed to his eyes, "Because I'm a necromancer?"
She nodded, "Yeah, that's probably a good idea. Just don't let them hurt anypony, alright?"
The two friends waited for a few minutes before six skeletons came from the palace, walking as normally as any other pony would despite their armoring.
"Well, looks like we're all set. Now we're off to... somewhere."
Exploring Canterlot went easier than expected. Bone's guards kept inquisitive ponies from bothering either of the foals as they assumed that the disguised skeletons were the protectors of some noble's children. None wanted to test their theory, as most guards had the habit of shoving ponies to the ground if they moved too close.
The more of Canterlot that passed them by, the more the void lurched and moved within the young necromancer. Chirping birds and the pleasant breeze were background noise compared to the beating hearts of the ponies around him, and it took a great deal of focus to drown out the noise.
"Hey, Scenic?" Bone questioned while holding his head, "Can we stop somewhere? I can't think straight."
The two friends found a shaded seating area beneath a tree, the skeletons blocking most paths towards them with their armored bodies and threatening weaponry.
"Can you pull the book out? There's gotta be something about this..."
Scenic plopped the tome down, a cloud of dust mushrooming outwards from it. Bone pulled the cover open, flipping past the previous areas he had read.
Now that we have the first two important subjects out of the way, we will move on to the most constant concern.
The beating hearts of those around you, the hungering for death and destruction, the call to insanity that we fight every day. You know it well, as I have struggled with the void myself. Since you're reading this, then perhaps I've already succumbed to it!
It makes it difficult for us to blend in, though not as much as our glowing eyes. The Void is both a gift and a curse. With it, we know if flesh and blood is nearby, essential to our talents. Whether or not that flesh is attached to pony is a different matter, but that is up for you to decide.
What is more annoying however, is when you are surrounded by too much life. Your first instinct will be to purge it, to make it silent so the noise will stop. Incessantly beating hearts would drive anypony insane, even more so if there are thousands.
How do we make it stop, you ask?
The Void is as much a part of us as our Cutie-Marks. It is annoying, but you can drown out the noise- the endless calling for blood and death.
Stay close to your friends, fellow necromancer. Keep those you care about safe and unharmed, for they are what holds the Void back from consuming us whole.
Alone, you will be driven to insanity. You will lose your fight against the void, just as I have.
Bone looked up from the book to his friend. "Do you want to try Pony Joe's again?"
"If you're up for it," Scenic replied, "I wonder if they have actual food there and not just treats?"
The young necromancer didn't really care either way. If keeping Scenic close was how he was supposed to deal with the Void, then he had one more reason to keep her safe. The filly took Bone's book back into her wing as the two left the table, making their way towards the diner in question.
"Do you think they'll give us a necromancer discount?" Scenic joked, "Two meals for the price of none?"
"More like they would run in terror."
"Come on, Bone. Celestia said that she didn't mind you trotting around Canterlot. It should be safe enough that you don't have to wear your hood up all the time."
Bone wasn't convinced, "She never said she didn't mind, she's just testing me. Let's not scare anypony today, okay?"
Scenic nodded, "You got it, Bone." Looking behind her, she noticed that the disguised skeletons were causing ponies to move to the other side of the street.
"You might want to leave those six outside, though."