Chapter 1: Return to Life
"Steel...please come back to us..."
“...I love you...”
I nearly jumped out of my cot at the frighteningly short dream. My heart was beating so fast, I feared it might jump right out of my chest. Luckily after a minute or so, I had forced myself to calm down. As the fogginess from sleep drifted away, I began to recall the dream.
The dream only consisted of a crying ponies - who from watching My Little Pony awhile ago, I knew was the mane six, Princess Celestia, and Princess Luna. They were standing in front of this giant ice block with other characters from the show, as well as a few I didn't recognize...namely a black dragon, what looked like a timberwolf, a blue-coated gold-maned earth pony, and a red-coated purple-maned pegasus filly. All of them were crying and laying flowers down near the ice. The dream didn't make sense to me, but then again my dreams nowadays rarely did.
This hadn't been the first dream like this that I'd had, and I had a feeling it wouldn't be the last...but perhaps I should explain how I came to this point first.
About seven or so months ago, I woke up in the middle of a field near my home. At the time all I could think was that I must've been at one hell of a party, but this humor quickly turned to confusion and fear when I saw the state of my home. The house had been boarded up...and my key didn't work anymore. Not willing to give up without a fight, I kicked the door in and searched the home. It was exactly how I remembered it, except that a few choice things were missing...namely my guitars and my mp3 player. Those losses paled in comparison to what I then found to be missing next...
I frantically searched the newspapers, town records, everything...even the cemetery. Nothing...they had literally disappeared off the face of the Earth, it seemed. As I delved deeper into this strange occurrence, I called some acquaintances and found that I too had seemingly disappeared for over five months.
What the fuck happened to us?
I assumed the worst...and without my family I didn't really feel the need to be around people anymore, so I moved. Over the next month or so, I traveled steadily further north until I came to Alaska. To this day, I can't figure out what it was, but being so far away from the big cities of the stiflingly warmer areas calmed me. The moon and the unbidden sun did so further...but by far the most beautiful thing I saw was the aurora. I used to shack up in the city of Juneau, but I soon found myself getting bored of the people there. None were really friends, so I grabbed plenty of rations and survival supplies and headed into the wilderness.
I traveled for weeks until I came across a place known as Prospect Creek. The area apparently used to be a camp for miners, but it had been utterly deserted. I hiked up the mountain near it and found the view breathtaking. I would often find it odd during this traveling period that the cold didn't bother me at all. Quite the contrary...I liked it. That being the case, I set up camp in a cave on the mountain and decided to make it my home.
During the weeks after that, I steadily gathered wood and supplies from the surrounding forest and built a sort of cabin into the cave itself. I trapped for food what small animals roamed the areas and hunted with a homemade bow the few caribou or moose that would pass through, and whenever I found I needed more supplies I would travel to the town of Coldfoot some thirty miles away to gather supplies. Besides that, I rarely left the area. I would not be so proud as to say I wasn't lonely, but considering the people I'd met just in getting here, I was glad I was on my own.
I had become familiar with the wildlife in the area, and knew the hunting patterns and territories of the various bears and wolves that lived in the surrounding areas. Luckily they didn't bother me so long as I kept clear from them, but that's not to say my life wasn't without incident. Four giant claw scars down my back from a bear can attest to that. Still, I was happy with my life. The wilds gave me nearly everything I needed, and so long as I could make my way to and from Coldfoot, I would be fine.
Everything was fine until...it...started happening. My body had started changing, though I'm still not sure why or how. My hair over the months had changed to a stark white with a line of silvery gray down each side, and my skin was paling to an unnatural steely blue. This made making my way to the city to get supplies a pain, as now I had to wear full winter gear to keep myself hidden...which I hated. Something about me must have changed, because where normally I would be freezing I could now walk around the tundra in a pair of jeans and a tee shirt. The full winter gear I had to wear to cover myself in town had me sweating, needless to say.
The more and more I withdrew from human society, the more I found myself seeking companionship with the wildlife, namely the predators. For some reason a few of them found kinship with me. To them I was apparently just another denizen of the frozen land.
I came to be very familiar with a gray wolf pack that often would investigate my home, curious as to the new structure and how it got there. I remember the first time I presented myself, a large male - who I assumed was the alpha - attacked me on sight in surprise. He nearly caught my throat, but instead sunk his teeth into my shoulder. The pain was intense, but I bashed him on the head with a club I used for hunting. He fell and lunged again, but this time I let him catch the handle of the club in his mouth. I then flipped him on his back and straddled him, holding him down. He fought for the longest time while the rest of his pack watched from far away, but eventually he calmed down and just glared at me with those bright yellow eyes. After a few minutes of this stare contest, I got up off the wolf and he jumped back as if to attack. However this time, he simply stood his ground, eyeing me with what looked like confusion. I dropped the club and took off my shirt, tearing it and wrapping it around the bite wound until I could clean it out later. The wolf snorted at me before walking back to his pack, and they all left.
The wolf pack as a whole never bothered me again, but I would often be joined during my days out by one of the younger wolves who I'd affectionately named Venn, meaning "friend" in Norwegian. He must have gotten to the age to leave his pack, because eventually he started to stay with me. It didn't bother me in the slightest, as it was nice to have a friend who didn't judge, didn't hate, and didn't succumb to greed. He was by no means a pet, and made sure I knew that by not heeding me when I called to him or tried to get him to do something. I would often find myself having a deep feeling of familiarity about the situation, but I brushed it off. Haha...when had I ever befriended a wolf?
This brings us to the present day.
Anyhow, I'd been having dreams more and more often lately about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Now I guess technically I'm a brony since I'm a dude and like the show, but I'm pretty sure I've never seen an episode like any of the dreams I'm having. Before the dream I had today, I'd had past dreams of some silver alicorn with a shield for a cutie mark...kinda like this weird tattoo I'd found on my shoulder. Only difference between the two is that my tattoo-thing makes it look like the shield is made of ice, and there's also a sword next to it. There's also a bunch of different cutie marks on it as well. From what I remember, I saw Twilight Sparkle's, Fluttershy's, Rainbow Dash's, Rarity's, Pinkie Pie's, Applejack's, Vinyl Scratch's, Lyra's, and both of the princesses'. 'Wow, I must've went on a brony rage or something when I was...gone for those five months.'
Kinda messed up for a guy roughing it in the wilds of Alaska to have a cutie-mark tattoo, but meh...not like anyone's going to find out.
Everything was fine until one day kinda changed everything for me. I was hunting for caribou in the forest around my mountain home with Venn, and it was about midday. It was what I considered a balmy summer day in the tundra, which meant the permafrost was melting a bit. This allowed some of the grasses and small shrubs of the tundra to grow, which meant migration for the larger herbivores that roamed the area. I had learned to follow Venn, as he had hunted these grounds with his pack until he left, and he knew exactly where to find food.
I had found it weird in the past few weeks that whenever I'd hunt, a little part of me hurt whenever I'd kill something. I didn't know why, but it was like a part of me felt it was...wrong somehow. Even with that being the case, I still had to eat and so did my newfound friend, so I kept surviving. One of the few things I'd kept from the civilized world was that I kept track of the days and months, as this helped me plan when and where to gather food. It was the beginning of July, and that meant there would be light nearly all of the time. This made hunting easier, but also made sleeping a bitch.
Thankfully on this day, Venn and I hit the jackpot: a bull moose easily the size of a small SUV. Rather than use my bow, I decided to trap it. The trap worked well and the large herbivore was basically waiting for me to put it out of its misery. As I raised the club to finish the job, I found myself looking in the eyes of the animal. A tear fell off my cheek, and I couldn't help but mutter an apology as I slammed the heavy blunt object repeatedly on the head until it stopped moving. With that out of the way, I lay the moose down on the skin-bed I brought and began the long arduous task of dragging the thousand-pound body all the way back home, which was about a mile away. To my surprise, Venn looped one of the straps around his neck and helped me. This wolf was a hell of a lot smarter than I gave him credit for, and I was glad to have him as a friend.
As we made our way up the mountain slopes, I made sure to urinate (as gross as that is) all the way up where blood from the moose had dripped. I had learned in survival training that providing I ate enough meat, this would overpower the scent of blood, and thus keep rival predators away. I could have swore Venn stared at me and shook his head as if to say "wtf", but it must have just been my imagination. As we continued pulling the body over the top of the cliff path, I came upon what I first thought was a hallucination. It looked like a spectral alicorn, but one I didn't recognize. It was bright blue with a flowing mane that looked like it was made of ice. It was wearing armor of some kind, and it's cutie mark...
I recognized that sword.
I looked at my left arm and compared. 'Holy fuck, it's the same!' Venn noticed the apparition as well and dropped the strap, growling. I took a similar response, pulling my knife and makeshift axe made from stone and caribou antler to defend myself. The pony just smiled at me and shook his head.
"Still as cautious as always, Steelbreaker." it said softly.
I froze...I knew that name. "W-what did you call me?"
He smiled again and sat down. "I called you Steelbreaker...or should I call you Drew?"
'Whoa...what the fuck is going on?' "Okay dude, talk. How do you know who I am, what the hell are you, and what do you want?" I asked, cautiously pulling the moose the rest of the way up and brandishing my weapons again.
"Oh come now, don't you think if I could or wanted to hurt you that I would have done it already? Smooth out rocky road, it's all groovy on the flipside." he said with a smirk.
Okay now this was getting weird...only my brother said that. That must mean... "I only know one person who says that, man. Where's my brother? I know you know where he is. There's no other way possible you could have ever come up with that."
The alicorn stood tall and grinned again. "Your brother is alive, and safe. I promise you that...as is your sister and mother."
I was stunned. After over half a year of thinking my entire family was dead, I was just told they were alive and well. "W-well where are they? Why doesn't anyone here know where they are or what happened to them? Explain that, mister ghost-pony-dude."
The pony chuckled and walked right up to me. Venn was still growling, but I waved him off with a hand and he stopped. The alicorn then looked me right in the eye and smiled, replying in a level voice, "I know you know about the multiverse, Drew. I'm here to tell you it definitely exists...and that your family is in an entirely different universe - as were you until you came back here."
"Wait, wait, wait a minute. Cool the jets, shift into neutral, and have a swig of slurpee; did you just say came back? Was I somewhere else? Is that why like five months are missing from my memory?" I said, getting oddly excited for some reason.
The alicorn simply nodded. "Take a good look at me...where do you think I'm from?"
I couldn't believe it, but there was no denying it at this point. "Equestria...you're from Equestria."
"Now, Drew...I have some things I need to explain to you." he said with a wide grin.
As I skinned and butchered the moose (much to the alicorn's dismay), he filled me in on all kinds of things. I honestly didn't know what to believe. It made sense, but at the same time it didn't. By what he said, the silver stallion I'd been seeing in my dreams was really...me; and he was a being that was harbored inside of me. An elemental avatar, as he called it. He told me that my brother, sister, and mother were waiting for me back in Equestria...as were all my marefriends. I had to stop him there...
"Wait a minute, you said marefriends...as in more than one? Is that even legal?" I asked with no small amount of skepticism.
He simply nodded and smiled again. "Yes. You have six I believe, and yes it is perfectly legal."
A few questions were still gnawing at me though... "Okay let's say I believe the ramblings from a ghost alicorn. Why don't I remember any of this and why am I not there anymore?"
For the first time he frowned. Even in this short time I've been talking to him, it felt weird to see him frown. "Well, you died. There was a war about to happen and you were in the first and only battle fought. Your troops were being overrun, so you sacrificed yourself so they could get away. Very noble indeed, Steelbreaker. As far as why you don't remember, it is because of your death. Somehow your sacrifice gave me life, and with it your memories. Your memories did not follow you back here, to Earth."
Okay, that was unexpected but yep...that sounded like something I would do. "Alright fine, but why are you all ghostie-like then? That's kind of the opposite of life."
The frown now turned into a smile again on the blue alicorn's face. "I am no longer living, because I returned your sacrifice to you." He stepped forward and placed a hoof on my shoulder, and I felt a tingling sensation. "Steel...come home. Your family and friends are mourning your death. Please...please give them this great gift. Don't let my sacrifice be in vain."
Now I felt like kind of a dick, because I had been honestly thinking of turning him down...but for some reason I believed him. Of course if what he said is really true, he's me in a way. Makes sense he'd know just what to say. "Will I get my memories back? I really don't want to have to get to know everyone all over again. I don't think I'll be as lucky a second time around."
He just smiled and nodded. "By accepting my invitation back home, all will be made right. They need you, Steel."
I stood tall and looked over at my newfound wolf-friend. "But what about him? I'm the only friend he's got now. A lone wolf is a dead wolf in the tundra."
The alicorn's face dropped and he sighed. "Being as I am, I am not sure it is possible...but I will try. You will be safe on the return trip...but for him I cannot say for sure. I will give it all of my being that I have left."
I nodded and stood up. "Well if my family's waiting for me, let's not waste any time. Let's go, I'm ready now."
He nodded and stood as well, wrapping his spectral wings around me and Venn. The next thing I knew, I saw nothing but black.
I woke up in a massive puddle of water in the dark of night underneath some kind of huge statue. I stepped out just as confused as ever on wobbly legs, but I recognized the area. I was indeed in Ponyville. Before I could take another step, however, I fell to the ground clutching my head as memories started passing through my mind so fast I had to fight not to scream. The pain was so intense had I not already relieved myself, I would have urinated everywhere. As far as trying not to scream, I failed as the pain got worse. I wished I could just black out again so that the pain would go away, but I couldn't.
And then, as suddenly as the pain started, it was gone. I was gasping for breath as I felt something soft and wet nuzzle my face. I turned my head to see Venn had made it, and he was luckily better off than I was. As I tried to clear my mind I realized something.
I remembered everything.
I was about to take off in flight only to find that my body felt different. I trotted over to the puddle of water to check out my reflection, and I gasped at what I saw. My coat was no longer the silver color I remembered...instead it was the same steel-blue my skin had become back on Earth. My mane and tail were the same, but I was at least a foot taller than I used to be. Also, where once my body was slender and lean, I was now well-defined and muscular. I was built more like an actual horse than a pony from Equestria, which of course was fine by me. Sure I wouldn't be as fast, but now I was pretty sure I could give my brother or Big Mac a run for his money.
'Ah shit. Drew, prepare thyself for beatings.'
There was no getting around it, everyone was going to beat on me for putting them through what I did for the past seven months. 'By Celestia...has it really been that long?' Not wanting to postpone this any longer, I prepared to fly. I realized there was a problem with that plan, however...
"Umm, I don't know if you can understand me Venn, but we need to go see friends of mine to let them know I'm alive and well. Follow me?" I pleadingly asked the wolf. To my utter shock, he nodded and we both set about walking toward the palace.
We arrived a little over six hours later at the palace gates. The guard was asleep, to which I snorted. 'Sorry excuse for a guard...' I stomped my foot and he shook his head a bit, waking up.
The guard stared at me a moment before taking the typical stern guard's look. "What are you doing here this time of night? Princess Luna is not seeing anypony."
I chuckled and bowed. "Presenting Prince Steelbreaker, sir."
The guard held a confused look on his face for a moment before responding.,"What are you speaking of? The prince is no longer living. In fact, he gave his life to protect us. You would do well to remember that."
'Okay...obviously this guy isn't going to be letting me in, and I'd rather not cause a scene.'
It was then that I had an idea. I focused magic into my horn, praying I had enough after "waking up" after months. Thankfully I did, and I fired the multicolored bolt of magic into the sky above us. The sky burst into bright ribbons of color, and the guard just stared at me.
"How and why did you do that?" he asked in utter shock.
I chuckled. "Oh, just wait...you'll see."
A few minutes passed and nothing...but then just as I was about to walk away I heard the furious clopping of hooves against the marble floors leading to the gate. It was Luna. She thrust open the gate and stood frozen in place once she lay eyes on me. She looked at me with confusion as well, which didn't surprise me. I had grown apparently, and I honestly didn't look like myself anymore.
I then leaned forward ever so slightly and whispered the one thing I hoped would remove all doubt. "There's always hope...Lulu."
She gasped so forcefully I was afraid she was going to turn into a vacuum. She instantly started crying and leapt at me, holding me in a vice grip embrace. I returned it wholeheartedly and I couldn't help but let out a chuckle. "Well...someone missed me."
For a few moments I enjoyed her warm embrace...until she pulled back and slammed a hoof into my chest, glaring at me. "You asshole!"
I couldn't help but let a gasp of my own out. I'd never heard Luna curse before. "I'm...I'm sorry?"
"Oh, you're not sorry. Not yet. Wait until Tia sees you...you'll see just how sorry you are." she said with a malicious grin.
I was reasonably afraid at this, but I needed to face the music. Something told me that Celly wouldn't have taken what happened to me so well. Luna walked towards the palace again, beckoning me to follow her. We then set about navigating the winding halls of the Celestial Palace, Venn in tow.
After a few minutes I found myself standing in front of a very familiar set of golden double doors - Celestia's room. Luna grinned at me and knocked loudly, no doubt waking the sleeping princess.
"Ugh...who's there? I said I wished not to be disturbed!" a voice shouted angrily from the other side.
Luna giggled and responded, "Tia, there's someone here to see you. It's someone I'm pretty sure you want to meet."
We heard shuffling from behind the door and it cracked open to reveal a very broken-looking princess. I expected it, but wow...I didn't know she'd look this unlike herself. She looked up and eyed me with surprise, then turned to Luna. "Luna, who is this? I don't recognize him at all."
I bowed my head to look at her in the eyes and winked. "Hello Celly. Sorry I'm late."
I could tell right away she recognized my voice, because she nearly knocked the doors down trying to squeeze through them. "Steel? Steel is it really you?"
I nodded and embraced her in a tight hug. "I'm so sorry, love...I never meant to do this to you."
I heard her giggling and felt tears on my chest at the same time. She was crying tears of joy, and I could see color returning to her grayed, disheveled mane, and her coat brightened up as well. She then stood back and tapped me hard in the chest, right where Luna had hit me. 'Ugh...barely back an hour and already I'm getting bruised.' "You still owe me for bringing Gilda back here."
"Really? I'm back after seven months and that's the first thing you can think of?" I asked with mock annoyance.
She giggled and nodded. "I always keep up on debts owed to me."
I smiled and nodded. "Fine, but can we address this tomorrow? I'm beat. Being reborn in a new body and traveling the multiverse takes a lot out of ya."
She nodded and smiled. "Yes Steel. I need my rest, no matter how glad I am to have you back in my life. We will address all this," she yawned, "tomorrow."
I nodded and planted a soft kiss on her nose, which she giggled at. She returned the gesture and closed her door with a wide smile on her face.
As I walked the halls of the palace towards my room (which I hoped was still available), Luna told me of everything that had happened since I had been gone. As far as the "war" - if you could even call it that - the gryphons chickened out after seeing what I did to their ranks. Apparently it wasn't even so much the fact I single-handedly killed over eight-hundred of their elite soldiers...it was the fact that I didn't even leave anything left to bury. There were also no survivors to say that I wasn't still alive and could do that again, so the gryphon king of Highmount signed a peace treaty with Luna a week later. Other than that though, things had been rather bleak. I was surprised at just how many ponies were glum without me there, besides my personal friends and family of course. Pinkie hadn't laughed even once since my death, and Vinyl had stopped performing until further notice.
As we reached my doors, Luna looked at me and smiled. She then drew me into as tight a hug as she could muster. "Steel, I missed you so much. Please don't ever leave us again."
I couldn't help but chuckle at this, as shitty as that sounds. "I did say only death would make me leave you...and I did kind of die."
She pulled back and stared at me with a deadpan expression, which just made me laugh more. She rolled her eyes and kissed me on the cheek before leaving down the hallway. "Well Steel, I have court tonight, so I cannot join you. Get some rest...for tomorrow we reintroduce the Prince of Equestria."
I nodded and opened my doors, letting Venn in and shutting the doors behind me. My room had been left exactly as it was the last time I used it, except the bed had been made. I was tired so I didn't really have the energy to do much else except sleep at this point. I quickly made a small bed for the gray wolf out of the comforter and blanket of my bed (which Venn seemed very thankful for), and I plopped down on the comfy bed. For the first time in over half a year, I was happy as sleep took me.
Today was a good day.