by EsotericPhantasm

Chapter 2. Dante's Inferno

Nothing in my life could have prepared me for what came next. First I was completely enveloped in darkness. Then I was plunged into that inky goop so I was unable to breath.

I thrashed around a bit for all the good it did me but I clearly wasn't going to leave. All I could think was, “For all the trouble it would take to do this to me, why kill me? Why? Why me?”

I was pretty good at holding my breath. I could do about two minutes, or even three if I was relaxed and didn't have to do anything. But even if I could hold my breath for hours the fact remains I would eventually give out.

I think I actually made a personal record and held out for four minutes but the reflex to breathe won out and I breathed in a lunge full of goop. Oddly enough I felt the relief of breathing air, but at the same time I felt like I just swallowed fire.

My insides began to feel like they were being cooked over a bonfire and though I screamed I couldn't hear myself. All at once the goo I was submerged in began burning my skin. Though my eyelids were closed I felt like my eyes were on fire though they didn't melt.

I couldn't even close my mouth after I opened it. The goop seemed to be pumping itself into my insides as I felt it Flow past my tongue. For some strange reason it tasted black and white at the same time. Think of licorice and white chocolate. Then realize there is no reference I can truly describe.

If you could name any part of the body that can feel pain then I felt it there. Even places where it had no business being, such as my brain and inside my bones. Yet for all the pain I didn't pass out and I just felt it intensify as if my senses were getting better, sharper even. I wished my pain receptors would just burn out and go numb, but they didn't.

As hard as it was to think I finally decided to open my eyes since there was nothing else I could really do. Instead of darkness as I expected I saw a kaleidoscope of lights and colors that kept shifting as if my eyes were trying to interpret what I was seeing. At the same time I felt the goop Flow into my eyes, bringing my pain to a whole new level. I could no longer close my eyes either. As my pain reached an even higher plateau what I was looking at finally resolved itself.

What I saw I was having a hard time comprehending. Then my pain grew and though it grew my thinking sharpened and I could understand. I can't even begin to describe what it was, but if you find yourself dragged through an abyss of chaos then call me and we'll discuss it over a cup of lemonade.

I don't know how long I was in that place, but I won't be ambiguous about it. I'm pretty sure it was about twelve hours of perceived time.

About halfway through my time in that place I was experiencing such pain that any mortal mind should've snapped and gone mad, yet my mind was clearer than it ever was. At this point the pain dissipated and I felt something different. Warmth, comfort, bliss, euphoria and ecstasy. This too built to the point any normal person would've gone mad. Strange but nonetheless how I felt at the time.

During all this all I could really do was think. What was the point? Where was I? When will it end? Will it ever end?

Eventually, as most things do, it stopped. I didn't feel anything. Nothing except the clothes on my body and the Midna plushie I was holding. I had actually forgotten I was holding it the whole time. Although it felt a little more solid and different than I remember, but then again would anything feel the same ever again?

Before I could even think much more on it my surroundings changed. I was surrounded by stars and supported by nothing. The goop was gone. I wouldn't be surprised if I'd somehow swallowed it all.

Suddenly I felt the sensation of movement. All around me grew dark except the direction I was headed, which now looked like a great white light. I couldn't help at least smirking a little and thinking, Don't go toward the light!

The light encompassed my entire vision until a few seconds later I fell up through darkness, and back down to solid ground landing on my feet. It was very disorienting and I'm amazed I didn't collapse. Somehow I wasn't completely exhausted. In fact I felt better than ever. However, I still panted for a second looking at the ground while hunched over. It was then I noticed the strange arcane markings in the stonework I was standing on.

"It worked! The summoning worked!" I heard a distinctly female voice exclaim.

I looked up and took in my surroundings not knowing what to expect. I was standing in what could best be described as a magic circle, and encircling that circle was a dozen odd looking ponies.

They definitely reminded me of the ponies from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic universe, but not quite. They looked like earth ponies but with mostly dull, dark and natural colors. Stuff that would make them blend in with a dark forest. Moreover they were less bulky and more lithe and graceful looking. To top it off they had cat-like eyes with colors ranging from red, green, purple, gold and so on. They all were wearing clothing of one sort or another. Mostly cloth and what seemed like leather in form fitting designs, which just screamed fantasy setting. They reminded me of the so called bat ponies from the show, only these ones didn't have wings.

I appeared to be in a large square chamber with lots of space and one large door towards where I was facing when I first looked up. The only thing other than the ponies and the arcane symbols was the large crystal lighting fixture just above me as well as the smaller ones in the ceiling corners.

Before I could really ask any of the usual questions someone in my situation would normally muster, the door slammed open and a more familiar looking pony rushed through. It was a bat pony mare with a dark blue mane, grey coat, golden eyes and clad in armor.

"The minotaurs have breached the outer gate!" the new arrival exclaimed. She seemed to pause in her motions after spotting me. "So, it appears your summoning gamble worked after all Quinoa. We'll see if it actually pays off."

"That it did Sweet Dreams," one of the ponies encircling me responded. She seemed to be the one that had spoken earlier. Her mane was a very dark purple with matching eyes while her coat was a navy blue. She was wearing a dark blue cloth outfit with purple leather that matched her eyes and a brown satchel strapped to her left side. "The day is ours. Soon our enemies will tremble before the might of, um, pardon me but what is your name strange one?" She questioned while turning to me.

With pretty much nothing better to do I responded, "Virgil Wrathborne." Hey, it's my real name. Don't judge.

"Before the might of Virgil Wrathborne and his companion," this Quinoa said with a triumphant smirk turning her head towards Sweet Dreams.

"Wait, I don't have a companion. It's just me." Something at the back of my mind was irking me as if I knew the real answer yet still contradicted it.

As if my statement was just asking for a rebuttal I felt something stirring in my arms. This prompted me to look down and see that I was holding not a simple plushie that I had crafted with care, but a living, breathing and not at all made of felt Midna, Fused Shadow and all, asleep in my arms.

It did occur to me to wonder how this could be the real character Midna even if such a person existed. It still didn’t detract from some of the unease I felt from realization that I was holding something that was once just a doll. Never mind that I was surrounded by talking equines while holding one of my favorite characters from one of my favorite games.

If what I went through brought an inanimate object to life just what had it done to me? Perhaps I would soon find out.

It was fortunate she seemed to be in a deep sleep as even all the shouting hadn’t woken her. This would certainly help me gain a grasp on my situation before I had to deal with her.

My once plushie wasn’t the only thing that changed that I could see without a mirror. While my costume creations were very high quality. I could see that what I was now wearing was what I would think a high-budget movie would have. The cloth parts weren’t that much different, but the quality of the leather was much finer and more pliable, which really showed when it came to the gloves and boots. What once was a plastic skull on my belt was certainly metal now and perhaps even silver. I usually wasn’t as cheap when I made costumes for others but since it was for myself I wanted to save.

I’m happy that it only took a few moments to take all this in since now I needed to talk to what I guess were my summoners in order to get a better understanding of the circumstances I was now in.

“What about the one you are holding?” Quinoa asked as she turned back towards me.

“Oh, yes you’re right. Must have slipped my mind,” I tried to say nonchalantly but it still came out a little nervous.

“It’s fine. I’m sure the summoning must have been disorienting,” she said in a much more casual manner. “How are you feeling now?”

That was certainly a good question. Oddly, after what I went through, I felt great. Positively energized in fact. Like I just drank a gallon of coffee and ambrosia. “I feel fine,” I responded in a much more confident tone. I just wasn’t sure what to say next. Thank you for sucking me through the nine circles of hell? That’s far from what I would say to someone who has enough power to summon someone from a different dimension. From what I heard Sweet Dreams say about minotaurs attacking their gate I’m certain I was here to fight a war, and somehow I was to be their ultimate weapon.

“Good. I’m sure by now you’ve realized why we’ve brought you here right?”

“Umm, yes. You want me to help you fight in some battle or war you have going on.” Not that I want anything to do with that mind you.

“I’m glad you catch on quickly. Yes, that’s what you are here for.”

Her indifferent demeanor was starting to rub me the wrong way. Why would they think I would want to help them? Sure I hate war, but since when do you go practically kidnapping people and forcefully drafting them? I was being shanghaied! Sure it was cool that I was in a world where apparently magic talking equines existed but that still didn’t take away from that fact.

I took in a deep breath to calm down a bit before replying, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude but no matter how awesome being in a place like this is it’s not worth dying for. Could you just send me back?” It pained me to say that since a lot of people would break their backs at a chance to be in a place with actual magic, but nobody would want to jump down the rabbit hole just to see a dragon before it ate them.

I seemed to have actually confounded Quinoa as she seemed a little flabbergasted with her mouth hanging out a bit for a few moments before she composed herself and replied, “Could you wait here a few minutes while my fellows and I have a quick meeting?” The anxious smile she plastered on seemed to imply a please.

Looking around I could see now that everyone in the room looked worried. Was I really that important to them that my refusal would cause such dismay? I didn’t fully understand what was going on so it seemed the most likely possibility.

I didn’t mean to make her sweat with anticipation but I probably did wait a little longer than normal to respond. “Very well. I’ll give you a moment. Please don’t take too long.” I didn’t want to just be standing around in a mostly empty room for even an hour in such an unfamiliar setting.

“Great! It won’t be long!”

With that Quinoa and most of the equines in the room promptly exited the door Sweet Dreams had come through. From where I was I could see the door led to a large hallway. On the way out Quinoa seemed to give a look towards Sweet Dreams that probably meant she was to stay here and keep an eye on me, or keep me company if you look at it a different way. I guessed right since after the door closed after Quinoa and her entourage left Sweet Dreams was the only one in the room other than me and Midna.