I was back in the darkness from the time I woke the very first time and the maw was there again its eyes were staring at me intensely.
The maw was moving up and down and I heard a loud rumbling come from it sounding as an avalanche as if it was trying speaking.
When it finished speaking, or at least trying too, it started to growl angrily figuring that I couldn’t understand a single word off what it had spoken. In frustration it roared like the first time shaking me too my core once more.
Groaning as the light shined in my eyes waking me slowly from my slumber. Trying to cover my eyes with my claws from the blasted sun but it didn’t work as it just went through it.
Blinking a few times I noticed that I could move my claw and than last night came back to me.
Remembering that I had saved all the ponies all in one piece mostly along with the treasure which had earned me the reward to be allowed to be untied from now on but they were still wary off me.
I ate my breakfast which was more than last time and then was allowed to wander for a bit before we left for the surrounding area.
I first went to check by the big pond looking at its whitish liquid and its very strong salt smell.
The water seemed to flow from a few small cracks from the top of a rock sticking out from the center the pond.
Wondering if it was being pushed up maybe from pressure by two moving tectonic plates or by an underground spring. Whatever the reason it went probably through a salt vein or some sort that is if I had to guess.
My thought was interrupted by a slurping noise as some of the water was sucked up by the tube.
My curiosity got the better off me and I followed it towards the building where it disappeared into the wall.
Running towards the door and pushed my head inside and was surprised by the beast of a machine. It almost took up most of the building and it was mostly tubes and a sort of barrel with a opening covered by glass and on the inside water was spinning. On the end of the room a cart with, what my guess was, salt lots and lots of salt. Not so far from it was a giant barrel where the clean water was pumped towards.
This machine was probably the only reason these ponies were able to live in a place like this and so I left it alone and continued exploring the town or should I call it outpost since it was probably only temporary.
I found a gem crafter who was cutting gems in various shapes so that they didn’t have to bring the worthless parts and be able to transport more with them when a caravan came or when they all left. They had must found much because behind the pony was a pile of rubble you wouldn’t belief your eyes I could last a year with that pile of gem rubble.
But I couldn’t dream for long before a shout pulled me from the delicious looking pile and it seemed the others were ready to go. It also seemed I had a different group with me today. The once from yesterday were either still recovering or still in a state of shock.
As we went through the area scouting for caves two of the ponies started to talk.
“I mean it is weird while it has been here a while we still haven’t given it a name.” The first started
“Named what?” The second said as he scratched his head in confusion.
“You know it.” The pony gestured to me with his hooves.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Would you like it if you called you it or the thing or the monster.” The first said as he poked the other in the chest with each word.
“Alright, alright, what should we call it then? We don’t even know if it is a male or female and I am so not going to ask. ‘Hey can you bend for over so that I check if your male or female.’ Not in a million years.” He crossed his hoofs and shook his head.
“I think it is a female I mean look to how elegant it is moving with every step. I shall name her Shimmer Skin”
‘Okay that was it.’ I thought to myself as I stopped. I bend my head towards the pony who just insulted my masculine and gave a low and agitated growl causing the pony fall backwards into the cart.
“Hahahaha, oh yea that so sounded as ‘Hey, you’re right I am a female’ kind of growl.” The second laughed his flank off while holding onto the cart so that he couldn’t fall off.
“You know it better? FINE, you give it a try if you know it all so well.” The first one pouted as he crawled in his spot once more
“Let’s see it has to fit *him* by who he is. He is pretty bulky and he can pull more than an average earth pony. He can as well armor himself with stones and stuff so a good name could be Gravel but that sounds pretty weak. Oh, I know Granite! It just fits him.”
“It does sound badass so what do you think? Do you like Granite as name?”
I stopped looked at the two who were pretty eager to hear my reply so I scratched my chin and gave a short nod that it was far better than Shimmer Skin.
“Now that disaster has ended can go back to work once more?” The second one asked as the first one nodded happily.
A sigh escaped my mouth as I was slightly relieved that they stopped talking about me as if I hadn’t been here for the first part. At least now we could go to work and find some caves.
“They eat crystals like Diamond Dogs right? Don’t you never wonder if the crystal tastes the same to both or not?” All I could do was groan.
Salvation, sweet salvation. We found a cave and I was finally saved from the endless banter of those four. Somewhere between a half hour to a hour the other two had joined the discussion of the taste of gems. But now, now they were focused and my ears could get some rest off those four.
We entered the cave me going in backwards with the cart till we reached the main room. The ponies were about to jump from the cart till we heard it.
The soft scuffling of bones over the stone ground and not long after the growing sound of moans of the dead as they came from the side rooms. Unlike the last time where they had a walking speed they now ran like athletes.
I was nailed to the ground in surprise and fear till I got shaken out of it by the loud screams off three of the four ponies. The fourth was blasting them one by one but it was hard being the only unicorn.
Checking quickly to see if they were still in the cart and when I saw they were I ran like my life depended from it. Which when you think about it actually did.
But luck wasn’t on our side because I tripped and fell hard with the cart tumbling over as well when we were near the end.
Hearing the groaning I closed my eyes in fear as I tried to get myself lose from the cart but the ponies had tied me in to tight and I couldn’t get out. Not like this anyway.
I let out a loud cry, which sounded something from a raptor but far more girl like, and I got hit by one of the bone bodies in my face hard. I was waiting till the pain started from chewing but nothing happened.
Slowly opening my eyes and I saw that a pile of bones covered me but they were not moving.
Checking the entrance I saw something that shocked me they still moved but the moment they got out of the shadow they collapsed. My mind was a bumbling mess because the adrenalin and it took me a few moments till I was able to get some things done.
My first priority was checking on the others who were as well covered by bones laying unconscious from the crash landing we just had.
Groaning as I slowly pushed the cart with some help from my tail back on its wheels and allowing me to unhook me far easier than a moment ago. When finally unhooked I wobbled towards them one by one and saw that none was injured beside a big bump on their heads.
The sun had moved quite a bit through the sky when we were ready to move again and we all decided it was better to go back and report what happened. It took us far longer to get back but we were lucky we reached the town as we did any second longer and we were so good as dead for a small army ran against the closed gates.
The next few days we rested and after a lot of discussion we came to the conclusion that it was just some bad luck and that the other caves were just like normal.
How wrong we were.
Day after day it was the same song with every group that went out to find caves. The dead rose at day time now even, though they could never leave their cave as long the sun was in the sky it made everything much harder.
At one point the dead even were able to pull themselves free from the walls and some even said that the Will-o-Wisps were now awake at day time as well.
“Getting treasure is nearly impossible! There is just too much off them.” “Isn’t it better to leave? Now we still can.” “I’m not going, nu uh.” Those kinds of sounds went through the village as ponies got distressed by their situation.
“Shut the BUCK UP!” Followed soon after as the boss stood on the stage and not a single pony dared to squeak.
“Those things like to play it hard? Well I say what they can we can do as well and better. All we need is some raw ore because I know used the rest of the metal to create the water purifier and mostly tools. Sure I know that finding ore is hard because the salt is hiding the marks in the stone but we got that freaking thing the Armor Lizard and we…” As he was giving his speech he was interrupted by a single.
“What?” The boss raised his brow.
“His name is Granite. We named him not long ago.” Some mutters and nodding went through the crowed.
All he could do was facehoof.
“Fine, ‘Granite’ eats minerals and I dare to bet he can smell them underneath all that salt how else can they find them?”
The next day was the day they expected me to do something I didn’t know how to do it. It wasn’t like I got any practice or something on how to use it.
But this time I was spared the cart pulling task as the ponies who followed did pull them though there were some among them with tools who were probably going to collect as I looked further.
“Well, hear goes nothing.” I mumbled to myself.
I sniffed the air and all I could smell was salt and far more salt. I started to concentrate with my eyes closed trying to see if I could smell it then.
But the moment I opened my eyes I was shocked that everything was dark red and with here and there shapes of orange. Blinking a few times and my own sight returned.
It seemed I had found my on and off switch for my temperature vision but the ponies wouldn’t care about it so I started to walk as I started to practice it till it was natural.
We were now out of the hole standing on a small hill as I tried to smell once more and there was something.
A very soft tingle was felt in my nose as a different smell than salt entered my nose. It looked like I was dancing as I started to move around to find the right direction of the smell.
After like ten rounds on the top of the hill the wind helped me as it blew a stronger whiff of whatever it was. I instantly jumped onto the trail of the smell following it for a bit.
I could still smell it but I couldn’t find the direction and I started to press my nose against the ground and then it happened.
The ground seemed to change color but then like the temperature colors this was a very wide variation. I could barely describe them all and I had no idea what smell was what kind of mineral.
Hours passed as I had figured out that brown was copper, grey tin, shining yellow gold, silver shining white, salt white but there were so many more colors to go and darkness was coming not long from now.
So I went for one more vein and this one was black but it was a challenge to get to it because it was hidden in a big piece of granite.
I scraped my nails over it but it barely made a mark and then I remembered the first time. I need to sense the weakness in the rock and not try to make one.
Closing my eyes for the so much of time this day I moved over the piece of rock looking and I was rewarded as I found with my sixth sense a weakness with which I could easily rip the rock to pieces.
I was about to gesture to the ponies who had followed me when I noticed that many of the carts had been filled with the others I had found. But they just tried to act as if nothing was going on and even a few where whistling while looking to the sky.
Who could blame them for collecting all the other, for them, important minerals and ores. The remaining carts were pulled forward as the tool carrying ponies started to collect the iron ores in the vein before we all returned.
The next day was a busy day as the whole town was working to create all different kinds of weapons and armor for the ponies to wear.
Through the day I hadn’t been able to rest as I was helping around town by either cracking pieces of ore that were still in hard pieces of stone or helping to jump on this big bag that caused the fires in the forge to become hotter. But mostly I was just doing little things for everypony so that their job became slightly easier to do.
That evening was met with cheers as the boss stood on the stage with his new armor while some of his crew handed out other pieces to the rest of the next expedition.
“Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow we shall go to the caves and take all what has a value and if those things try to stop us we just make sure they stay dead this time.” His little speech was met with cheers from the rest of the town as they wanted revenge for all the failed tries.
Even the next day everypony was in a good mood as twenty or so ponies stood ready with nine carts and the others armed to the teeth. I myself didn’t need an armor for I could make my own from rocks which was an upside because I bet none of them knew how to shape one for my species.
They attached me to the biggest cart, which had the most ponies in them, as we went off to find treasure.
Our search resulted in our first success as we came across our first cave pretty soon as were all unlocked from the carts.
I quickly moved of the path and started to collect the rocks next to it to use as armor before I joined I joined the rest around the entrance of the cave.
“Alright, we go in and show them what we are made of. But watch out they will try to storm you with many at the same time. So my advice is to prevent them from forming groups but never go out alone always stay in groups of three at least. We go!” We got informed of the tactics as we went in on his command.
The darkness was cut by the lanterns some of the unicorns had brought with them as we slowly moved deeper and deeper. But unlike the normal caves this cave had multiple smaller rooms before we had reached the main room.
This one had many smaller rooms some were higher up the wall which you could reach by using the platforms and stairs that adorned the walls.
We had been expecting to be rushed but nothing happened not even a sound. I wasn’t sure what was worse being attacked or this creepy silence.
Slowly shuffling to the center of the room and looking around as nothing happened. Some small groups went to the first room and got out fast with the treasure which was being piled in our circle.
The group started to become less tense and more cheery as they plundered the smaller rooms. They even started to taunt whatever was out there which was not a smart thing to do because I was having these something-is-watching-you shivers.
How right I was.
A loud thud was heard as at the entrance suddenly a skeleton had appeared who probably had jumped from one of the higher rooms. This skeleton however looked like me. No, it looked like it was one of my kind. But unlike stone as armor it had used other skeletons as his armor explaining the lack of smaller once.
“PREPARE!” A command was given as suddenly from a few rooms smaller skeletons appeared running to the ponies keeping them busy.
This means I had to fight one of my kind, even though undead, with no experience of how they fought.
But it was very nice to me as it ran to me and knocked me back with its skull. Lucky I had my armor because its skull was covered with lots of pointy bones and it would had given a nasty gash and who knows what kind of infections.
Spinning around fast using my tail as a whip I smashed some of the bones on its side as it had tried to use the same tactic again.
The second try of me it jumped over my tail and bit into my armor at the base of my tail. I started to pull hard but it refused to let go no matter what I tried.
The ponies were still busy with the small group of smaller once but they just kept on getting up once they were scattered.
Then an idea hit me as I quickly released that part of my armor before I rolled over the ground fast to gain more stones to repair it. The skeleton was surprised as it tried to get the piece of rock out of its mouth.
I used that as an opportunity to get a good shot on it as I ran forward as fast as my legs could. I grabbed its neck and bit down hard and used my claws to hold down its claws.
It screeched as it was able to remove the rock and started to squirm its claws free as we started a small boxing game while me still holding him while trying to stay away from its jaw and tail.
Shaking my head fast and hard I tried to decapitate it and see what would after that. Its bones and bone armor were tough but I was met with cracks as my teeth went deeper. Too bad the taste of the bones was terrible because I felt sick to my stomach from it.
The ponies ran out of the way as the bigger skeleton dragged me into a dance nearly decapitating some of them with our tails. But it used my own tactic against me as it released the bones around its neck and put some distance between us waiting to make a next move.
Okay the taste was to terrible as I was spitting the bones out of my mouth. I dug my mouth in the stone ground and made some stone dentals for myself.
The skeleton ran for me as I was busy making my stone teeth trying to get me this time. But I wouldn’t make it so easy as I slammed my head upwards against its chin causing the neck to break.
Quickly biting down on the head and crushed it with my new teeth till it was small chunks and the rest of the body stopped moving and crumbled to a pile of bones.
The smaller skeletons had stopped moving as well as they tried to escape into some other tunnel we had missed because we had though it was just a smaller room. But the ponies didn’t let them as they followed them and crushed the last few of them.
We were all cheering as we gathered as much as we could and stuffed our carts full with a pile hanging over the edge. The group of ponies who had been riding with others were carrying more treasure with them in their bags.
Nothing could go wrong from now on.
Or could it?