Sunset Shimmer Hunts the Undead

by Rune Soldier Dan

Walk Like an Egyptian

Straw colored bricks surrounded Twilight Sparkle – darkened, dusty reminders of how far beneath the Earth she had come. Images on the left wall caught her eye, and she gestured for her only companion to turn towards it. Hand-length helicopter blades changed their hum, playing the flashlight of the tiny drone upon carved words and pictures.

Egyptian hieroglyphs, complete with the usual mess of drawn gods and chariots. Not useful. Twilight was a genius by every stretch, but the study of dead languages had never quite made her interest.

...Maybe that should change. The frat house of horror back in September had a Sumerian name, probably originating with its ghoul founders. That made this the second time helpful clues were likely passing under Twilight’s nose.

Unacceptable, for a genius to miss such things. Both languages were definitely on the docket for her summer reading.

No help for it. She resumed her trod, one dusty, crumbling stair at a time. Downwards, alone into the darkness.

The stairs evened into a cold stone floor. The hard light from her drone illuminated pillars to each side, but failed to find the edge of the room her trail had led her to. Nothing could even be seen in front save a giant statue, murky and indistinct beyond the flashlight’s range.

As Twilight stepped between the pillars, the sound of bursting flame to each side caused her to stumble and fall. Braziers at the pillars’ heads caught flame, then the same emerged from another set some space into the distance. Bright enough to illuminate the sides of the massive cavern…

...No, the massive tomb. Gold-plated sarcophagi laid along the perimeter, each one atop mounds of priceless treasure: ancient coins, blue-wrapped scepters, and sapphire jewels. The new lights gave greater vision to the statue as well, showing its appearance to be of a feline sitting with extended paws.

The paws moved. Twilight’s eyes shot wide as a third set of braziers ignited, revealing the ‘statue’ in all its glory. Claws larger than Twilight lazily flexed from mitt and body covered with maroon fur. Her gaze moved upwards, trailing its jewelry and pink chest to find the mouth of sharp grinning teeth, and yellow eyes fixed solely upon her.

The voice that emerged was throaty and female, though loud enough that Twilight felt the ground twitch beneath her. “Well, well, well, what have we here? The last of the grave robbers, I expect.”

A wing swung out from the being’s side, and its grin snaked upwards as Twilight followed the point to four standing, open sarcophagi in a desolate corner. Each held a mummy calling helplessly through its gag, and wrestling uselessly with its bonds. One was tall and wore a cowboy hat; another, shrimpy and small. Red and orange hair leaked out of the wrappings of the other two.

Twilight’s eyes kept moving, and blinked a little wider as they found a fifth sarcophagus. Open, empty, and waiting.

“We’re not grave robbers,” Twilight said. The words rallied her a little bit. She stood slowly, willing her expression to one of arrogant nerdy indifference.

“So you say.” The sphinx rose and arched its back, never moving the yellow gaze.

“I’m serious,” Twilight offered stoically. She dusted the sand from her rump and pushed up her glasses, hiding her eyes behind their flare. “My experimental underground magic sensor–”

The sphinx tilted its head cat-like, the wicked grin replaced with mild confusion.

“–detected an anomaly in this area. We were only exploring to see if you were a threat to Canterlot City. If you’re not, I’d like to collect my friends and go.”

The grin returned, seemingly sharper than ever. The sphinx stepped forward to loom even higher above Twilight. “You lie, little one, intentionally or not. One of your friends couldn’t even wait for the braziers to light before making to seize the wedding necklace of Pharoh Rakon.”

“Which fOh, God damn it, Adagio.” Twilight glared daggers to where the newly-wrapped mummies stood. She gave her ponytail a good yank, thinking and glaring before returning to the sphinx. “I’m sorry about her. But I guarantee that wasn’t our objective. What can we do to work this out?”

Again came a head-tilt, though this was accompanied by a humored smirk. “You can enter your sarcophagus and save me the trouble.”

“Look, I’m not an idiot. I told another hunter team where I was going.” Twilight peered over the top of her glasses. “They’re better at this than we are, and they won’t let you off easy. Let’s make a deal. I can provide some cutting-edge security measures for this tomb in exchange for our freedom.”

“My security seems entirely sufficient, thank you.” The sphinx yet smiled, but the expression had turned coy. It paced to the side, tail waving slowly like a cat about to pounce. “I am not afraid of your reinforcements. However, I do wonder who they might tell, themselves. Secrecy is all I crave for this place, and if rumors spread of its true nature I shall be inundated with thieves. You may leave with your friends, so long as you vow silence of all here and make no further attempts upon its wealth...”

The sphinx leaned close, its breath a conspiratorial whisper that smelled vaguely of fish. “...If you prove yourself worthy. Three riddles. Pass them all, and free your friends. Fail, and join them.”

“Riddles.” Twilight shuffled, then raised one finger. “Fine, but only on one condition.”

“Name it,” the sphinx said with droll amusement.

“You don’t ask me what an ancient Egyptian tomb is doing in western Oregon.”

Nonplussed for a moment, the sphinx blinked and pawed at its headdress before offering a shrug. “Agreed.”

It turned around, chuckling mysteriously as it paced down the room. Its tail brushed gently to Twilight’s side, even that so huge as to knock her to the floor. “Listen carefully, little one. For as I wandered the desert one day, I saw three camels. One with one hump, one with two, and one with three humps! But how is it that a camel of Egypt, which only ever carry one or two on their back, might have a third hump?”

“One or two...” Twilight grumbled, trying to both think and get to her feet. She righted herself, then righted her glasses. “Humps… stupid word-plays. Can I use my phone?”

“What’s a phone?” the sphinx asked, turning back with curious eyes.

Twilight met the gaze.

Then hid her mouth with a cough. She held her purple phone up for the sphinx to see. “It’s a… prayer-brick. I… touch it and tap it, which my people believe sends vibrations to our god that he can hear and understand. I use it to pray for inspiration.”

“The gods are greedy and destructive.” The sphinx licked the top of its paw and shrugged again. “Go ahead, but I bear no responsibility for the consequences of their attention.”

“Great, thanks!” Twilight’s thumbs were already in motion as she turned around and hunched the phone from view. A distinct tic-tacing emerged, echoing through the massive space. Even the prisoners halted their struggle in confusion at the familiar noise.

Twilight spun back, triumphant. “Pregnant! The third camel was pregnant!”

“Correct,” the sphinx said, its expression settling to a challenged smirk. “But you have two yet before you, and here is the second: A man was born before his father, killed his mother, and married his sister. Yet he bears no sin for any of this! Explain.”

Again, Twilight turned and hunched. Again came the tic-tacing, and this time the sphinx’s ears rose with the noise. It crept closer, nosing curiously towards the phone, but caught no glimpse before Twilight turned back.

“The father faced the baby when he was born – hence, the man emerged ‘before’ his father. The mother died in childbirth. The man grew up to be a priest or other officiant, and so ‘married’ his sister to someone else.”

“Very good.” The sphinx stretched the last word into a purr. It poked its tongue out a little and wiggled slightly. “Very good indeed. I have never gotten this far, yet I half-fear you have run out of luck. The gods themselves do not know my final riddle. Your little prayer brick will give you no answers. Take a moment to prepare yourself, for there will be no going back once we begin.”

A nervous chuckle fled Twilight’s mouth. She clicked a button on her phone, then clicked it again. “Not much else to prepare. I have a strong signal.”

“A what?”

Twilight shook her head. “Nothing. Hit me.”

The sphinx’s eyes went wide. A befuddled frown took place on its mouth, and a shrug followed. It raised a paw the size of a Buick and–

“DON’T ACTUALLY HIT ME!” Twilight screamed as its descent was halfway complete. “It was a figure of speech!”

“Ah. Yes, that makes more sense.” The sphinx gave a gentle cough. “Very well, then.”

Its voice took an ethereal, rumbling quality. “Here it is, the Final Riddle: I have a place within everything. I begin eternity, and begin each end...”

A look of mixed shock and annoyance crossed Twilight’s face.

“I am essential to creation, and I surround every place. I am found in all matter on Earth, and I am at the end of time and space. What am–”

“E!” Twilight shouted, her indignation consuming all sense of triumph. “The letter E! This is the final riddle?”

The sphinx leaned back slightly from the outburst. It sat down, voice downcast and tail twitching nervously. “N...not even the gods know it.”

“EVERYONE knows it!” Twilight threw out her arms. “I mean, what is an ancient Egyptian sphinx even doing telling riddles about the English language?”

“None of your business,” the sphinx mumbled sulkily.

“It…!” But Twilight caught herself. She took a deep breath in, and let it out with a wave.

“You’re right,” she said with a heavy sigh. “I’m sorry. This has been a very illogical day, that frustrates me, and I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. I’ll collect my friends and go, and… yeah, I’ll send you some of my security inventions as an apology. I hope they help.”

The sphinx recovered as well, perching regally in the far corner from the prisoners. “Accepted. Take them and go, and remember to hold this place in secret.”

Twilight wasted no time. She ripped down the wrappings with her scalpel, freeing Sunset, then Adagio and Applejack. The four of them departed, chattering happily with relief as they crossed the room towards the entryway.

Then they ran back to free Wallflower, and the five began their climb from the tomb.

Adagio sped a little to get ahead of the group, putting her ascending butt on level with Applejack’s eyes. A glance back showed the farmer’s attention to the side instead as she gave effusive praise to the blushing Twilight.

The siren shrugged and reached into her pocket. “Successful hunt, after a fashion. Let’s hit a steakhouse and celebrate. My treat.”

She pulled out four coins stamped with a pharoh’s head, tossed them expertly to the air, then snatched them all mid-fall. “Payday. While you guys went back for Wallflower...”

And with that, Adagio took off at a run. An echoing, furious roar sounded up from behind them, followed by the violent tremor of a beast lurching to action. The others sped in Adagio’s wake – Applejack with one hand on her hat, Sunset dragging the slower Wallflower along, and all screaming at the top of their lungs.