• Published 13th Feb 2012
  • 13,792 Views, 103 Comments

Project Renaissance - Out of Service

Two men awaken from almost two thousand years of slumber and find the world they once knew radically changed. Together, they will lead a revolution against their alien surroundings in an attempt to remind the world of one thing: humanity is not dead.

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Chapter Five: Phobos and Deimos

Project Renaissance

Chapter Five: Phobos and Deimos

By Lucius Seneca & Stillmatic

The fiery sun above Equestria had passed over twice in the time it took for three unlikely and unwilling acquaintances to finally reach what Pyrite’s maps described as Hatchaway Falls, a bubbling current of water nestled between swamps and dark splotches of forests that inhaled all sunlight. Even the ground itself seemed to shift color as they maneuvered through the region, turning from the dusty and bright sands of Froud to the bluish and depressive grass notable of Southern Leota. The further north they journeyed, the more normal the setting became, other than the obscure landmarks dotting the clearings. The small group would run into encounters with the wildlife every now and again, but whatever it was that resided in the forest kept their distance eagerly, never revealing themselves past their eyes in the darkness. That came less and less as they got closer to Hatchaway Falls, a placid clearing surrounded by a thick underbrush. Soon, they’d finally be able to rest in the relative safety of the waterfall and forage for more supplies for their trip.

But despite the forced cooperation of the three, there was still a growing hostility and distrust between them. There was no conversation unless it was to point out a specific source of edible food, a local fauna, or certain times they should rest and plot their next move. Pyrite found herself waking up in sweats, never truly feeling safe when in the vicinity of the humans. Though that was mostly the work of the forest’s magic, it worked well to keep her distanced from them. Westin and Ulysses would sometimes speak to each other, though just enough to get information they needed or wanted to know. At times, the darker skinned human would be forced to carry the injured Pyrite on his back. Ulysses would make mention of them not needing a guide when they had the maps, but Westin continued doing so. A little physical exertion would likely pay off in having someone to prevent a knife ending up in his back later on.

Hatchaway Falls roared nearby and the trio came to stop across from it, resting on a grassy plateau that overlooked the mossy crags and battered rocks. It seemed that the Deep South was riddled with waterfalls and, as Westin looked down at the shapes of alligators resting in the small culverts of slow flowing water, it appeared as if the local fauna never strayed far. Behind him, Ulysses kicked a small pebble off into the shaded underbrush and watched as it disappeared into a mess of leaves, vines, and tree branches. Above, a hawk screamed a hunting song before vanishing into the canopy. The distant drumming of water on rocks had a calming effect and all three travelers settled wearily on the lush carpet of Bermuda grass. The sun cast deep shadows as it made it's away along it's ever continuing path, twisting and merging silhouette with shadow, creating lurking figures and invisible fears.

Pyrite absently set about finding materials for the fire that would no doubt be set as the cool temperatures began to set in across the south. She piled together a circle of irregular stones in some resemblance of a fire pit before gathering the dead leaves and twigs that lay scattered near the forest's edge. Ulysses and Westin followed suit as they created a small pyramid of sticks above the kindling to catch the flames. They watched with bleary eyes as Pyrite's horn lit up and the collection of dead tree limbs exploded into a blaze of orange and red, crackling as sap melted and popped. Neither asked about the magic anymore. They had silently agreed that there would be a solution somewhere. Perhaps in the camp that Pyrite was leading them to. At least, they hoped so.

No one said anything and began what was slowly becoming routine for them. Pyrite would use dowsing spells to find berries and nuts, Westin would stock up their water and set up rough sleeping quarters, while Ulysses, the only one skilled in such an area, fished for whatever would bite from the small lake produced underneath the waterfall. Two trout and one particularly energetic sturgeon were caught, a small sack of assorted edibles were gathered, and several canteens filled to brim with cool water were amassed two meters from the campfire. Their shelter was a flimsy construct, made from the large leaves of a massive flower and propped-up sticks from the underbrush. Though the entirety of their effort was mediocre at best, it was still something that had managed to keep them alive through the harsh environments they hiked through.

Ulysses began to absently clean and fillet the three fish with a sharpened piece of flint. Pyrite and Westin watched tiredly as the scales caught in the light of the fire. It was not yet evening, but the sun fell fast in the desert and Ulysses knew the fish would take longer to cook the way he was preparing them. He spread the recovered edibles along each fillet. Potatoes, a few carrots, and a single stock of celery was evenly distributed and, with deft skill, he wrapped each fish with a tight layer of overlapping ferns. He set the covered fish along the inside of the fire pit so that they bordered the rocks, but were far enough from the flames that little burning occurred. He sat back with Pyrite and Westin and waited.

Each of them was left to their own individual thoughts. Ulysses sat back on the grass and rested his arms upon his knees. He pondered about just what the hell he had gotten himself into, how it would turn out, and just what exactly had happened. Pyrite found herself thinking about her parents and what they were doing at the moment. She knew she wasn’t exactly the pride of the family since she had started living her less-than-legal life, but maybe with this, she would finally be able to return with more than just her parents' respect for her choices. Likewise, Westin wondered what happened to his own family. He had been detained months before everything seemed to collapse, so what became of them was likely to remain a mystery. Then he recalled Ulysses, and the many families he likely tore apart or ended at his hands.

So, being the inquisitive person he was, Westin naturally asked the question on his mind, "So nigga, how many people did you kill before they finally caught you?"

Ulysses looked upwards as he thought, “Well, I killed one in Dallas, and another in Cheyenne. Then there was that women in Guaymas and two men in Nogales. Why?”

"Man, you're disgusting, you know that? I don't even know how the hell the world made you the way you are. Inconceivable."

Ulysses laid back, his feet facing the fire, "They're gonna hang me in the morning, before the night is done. They're gonna hang me in the morning, I'll never see the sun."

"Good. Creep."

Pyrite, who had been silently eating some berries, decided to chime in, "Don't you two ever stop arguing?"

Ulysses sat up instantly, "Why don't you just be quiet for the rest of this trip."

Pyrite raised her hooves, horn lighting slightly, "And then how would you even get out of the wilderness? This place can be worse than the Everfree, so without an actual guide with actual experience and actual maps, you aren't going to get far at all."

"If Westin wasn't so sentimental, you'd be bled out in a ditch right now and we'd have the maps and be out of this cesspool."

Westin gave a barking laugh, "Hah! It's called using your brain! You don't screw up your chances before you even get them!"

Ulysses snickered, “People like you always manage to mess up your chances.”

"That's racist."


"You better watch your manners, wonder bread."

Ulysses just laughed and laid back down, "Something is watching us."

Pyrite's ears shot up, her body stiffening, "You hear that too?"

"They've been watching us for a while now." Ulysses stated blandly.

"And neither of you said shit about it?" Westin angrily thumbed towards the direction of some rustling bushes.

Ulysses shrugged, “You've been too busy running your mouth and asking questions you shouldn't. You talk too much, Westin.”

From the tree line burst three beings, two of which neither human had ever seen before. These new creatures, some incredible mix reminiscent of a bird and feline, stepped forward tentatively. Each of the newcomers dressed in differing sets of armor of varying materials, but one thing specifically stuck out enough for Westin, Ulysses and Pyrite to notice instantly. For reasons unknown, these strangers bore a golden representation of a hand as their emblem. The third member happened to be a silvery unicorn, horn glowing and ready to strike against them should they try anything. Both humans instinctively reached for their tasers.

Pyrite scrambled backwards in fear and her horn glowed distinctively in the process. Ulysses and Westin held their tasers at their sides, ready to raise and fire in a moment’s notice. The newcomers were dressed roughly. The two larger, feathered creatures wore simple chainmail across their chest with leather bracers and gauntlets, all scarred and pockmarked from use. Even their chainmail had a splotch of rust here and there. The unicorn had a look of total amazement across his face, eyes wide with disbelief. He wore a tightened leather chest guard and a crossbow hovered nearby, apparently held by his telekinesis or magic, as Pyrite called it. The forest fell silent at the sudden arrival of the strangers and both sides faced off for a long moment as the sun began to fall behind the thick canopy.

Westin lowered his voice to where only Pyrite could hear him, "You know these freaks?"

"No!" She hissed, "These are just some Leota zealots who always attack guard patrols! I didn't even know they recruited griffons!"

The unnamed unicorn heard the vagrant whispers and stepped forward, mouth open to shout something back at them. Whatever it was going to say was never heard. Pyrite, already jumpy, anxious and ready to defend herself from nearly anything that even so much as got close to her, was sweating heavily. Her situation wasn't any better as the other pony was interrupted by a small rabbit jumping into the clearing, a curious look in its eyes for the brief second it was still alive. The archaeologist's horn reacted on instinct, and she used what was started to become her favorite spell. Letting loose a scattershot, her tightly shut eyes weren't able to witness the small vermin explode into a fine, red mist with the occasional tuft of fur. Both humans covered their eyes with their forearms to protect themselves from the light from the spell, the bits of dead rabbit, and the turned-up dust from the impact. Everything settled, but now they were being stared at with surprised looks from the newcomers.

Ulysses wiped a piece of rabbit from his face, "What the fuck!"

One of the "Griffons", as Pyrite called them, stepped forward, "You... Those are hands, aren't they? Where did you get those?"

Still wiping bits of gore from his visage, Ulysses felt his anger rising, "I was born with them."

Pyrite stamped her hoof, "Don't talk to them! They're crazies!"

"I believe that," Westin commented, not minding the blood just yet, "Coming in, ruining dinner, all that. I don't know what you things are, but you need to not be here. Or alive. Either one."

The female griffon let out a type of snarl glaring at Pyrite, "Watch your mouth, heretic." She looked back at Westin and Ulysses, "You were born with those hands?"

Westin closed his hands together and opened them as mockingly as possible, "Why yes, I do believe I was born with the hands that are attached to my body! But I get how you wouldn't understand that!"

Pyrite, realizing neither of the humans were backing away, bolstered her courage and stepped forward, "You have no right to attack us. We're not trespassing."

The male griffon nearly spat at her, "Leota belongs to us. You and your kin pollute it."

"Last time I checked, you zealots were just considered a bunch of aimless rebels. No wonder the Royal Guard doesn't even bother trying to stamp you out. You're not worth their time!"

Lunging at Pyrite, the griffon let out a choked cough as Ulysses stiff-armed him across the throat, knocking the warrior to ground, "Back up, brother!"

Westin forced back a smile, not wanting to admit his excitement at the prospect of fighting someone getting a bit too close to his personal space with weapons, "These guys wanna start, huh?" He pulled off a long stick from what was meant to be a part of their shelter, "Then let's start some shit."

The unicorn who had remained silent thus far spoke up, “Wait!” He looked at his own companions who were drawing weapons, “If they truly are what we’ve been looking for, LeBlake is going to want to see them.”

"Sweet Celestia, you guys still listen to that monster?" Pyrite lashed out disgustedly. "She's a Monitor, for Luna's sake! A Monitor!"

Westin looked at Ulysses, "They worship a computer monitor, man. Some things never change. I bet she's white."

Ulysses lowered his taser slowly, "What are you talking about? Who's LeBlake?"

The male griffon huffed and rose to his feet, "Grand Foreseer LeBlake is the head of our factional group. I don't think she'd be interested in some riff-raff bandits from the North."

"We're not bandits." Ulysses stated with a concrete tone, "We're humans."

The unicorn froze before grasping around his companion's necks and pulling them close. There were harsh whispers going back and forth, with him occasionally looking back to check on them. The three broke up and turned back to the two humans and equine.

"If what you're saying is true, then we may have some use of you. Come with us, and we'll provide you with food, drink, and lodgings. Or if that doesn't please you, you could stay in Leota and hope that a head-splitter doesn't sneak up on you in your sleep."

Now it was the eclectic trios’ turn to discuss their options. Westin, Pyrite, and Ulysses spoke quietly amongst themselves. Pyrite spoke vehemently and glanced cautiously back at the so-called zealots, protesting the decision the Ulysses and Westin were slowly coming to an agreement on. Several more minutes passed with Pyrite punctuating her words with her hooves as she tried to discourage her walking rewards, but, in the end, she failed.

Ulysses and Westin turned to face the opposite group, “After you.”

And so they went, following the strangers to what they called home in an ancient land.

"And that is why we've been safeguarding the pass into Old Leota. There's still some things under the surface here that we've been trying to uncover for years."

Westin nodded, not really paying attention. The walk they were experiencing was absurdly tedious and downright unenjoyable in every way he considered possible. What he assumed to be the female griffon talked to him endlessly about how her group operated and were in search of some very specific things in the Forest and Froud Valley. Pyrite fared no better, and trailed at the back of the group with a disgruntled look on her face. Her preference of distance from what she considered a group of untrustworthy fanatics would have been understandable to anyone, even bandits and thieves. The clandestine organization that operated within Leota was regarded as something to avoid, a cancerous and wrathful tumor made up of well-trained individuals.

Ulysses chatted casually with the male griffon and the unicorn. His mind had finally given into the idea that he was not dreaming, that this was not some hallucination, that everything around him was real. It was overwhelming, scary even, but it had a slight touch of excitement, something that made Ulysses innately giddy to discover what had replaced the world he had once known. The male griffon had introduced himself as Akakois. He was easily six feet in height and his armor made his feathers poke through in some places. A sword swung from his hip and he walked with a long, confident stride. The unicorn, young and relatively polite, had said his name was Teal or something similar; his voice was unusually quiet. Ulysses had been focused more on getting ready to defend himself from an ambush, but it seemed that the group was happy to have him and Westin with them, even if they treated Pyrite coldly.

"I was born into the Order, actually. My father and mother served all their lives. Our lineage goes back hundreds of years, you know." Akakois said proudly as the group trudged through thick jungle.

Ulysses swatted a mosquito from his face, "That's impressive. What about you?"

Looking up, Teal realized Ulysses was addressing him, "Me? Oh, the Order rescued me."

Lysandra, the other Griffon, cut in before Ulysses could pry for more information, “Yes, Teal has been with the Order for a few years now. We three have only been patrolling together since July.”

“So, what month is it now?’ Westin asked.

“It’s August of course,” Lysandra gave the two men peculiar looks, “Are you truly humans?”

Westin shrugged, "I was the King of the United States before shit went downhill. Had some decent dental too."

"You were a king?" Pyrite questioned. "Where's your royal regalia, then?"

Before Westin could make a crude gesture towards somewhere on his lower body, the group abruptly stopped, with Lysandra turning towards them fully.

"Listen up. We're going to head past this bush, then you're going to stay really close. Try not to stick out too much."

Ulysses spoke up, "Where are you taking us, anyway? We've been walking for hours."

The griffon placed a claw on a part of the thicket and pulled back, "A tidy little place called home."

Before the archaeologist and the two criminals was something spectacular, though entirely unfitting of a deadly forest, admittedly. It was as if a small settlement had been built within the clearing, highly fortified and ready to repel any attacks. Tall palisades bordered the area in front of them, with archers hidden in watchtowers that overlooked both the village and the wilds beyond. A sturdy, bolted wooden gate allowed entrance into the village and armed guards patrolled the walkway above. Westin, Pyrite and Ulysses let out collective breaths at the small settlement. If the facility they had left behind was their reminder of their lost world, this was the introduction to a new one.

The gate swung open as the group approached, Lysandra and Akakois in the lead followed by Teal and the rest. Westin looked around in amazement at the colonial-style houses, all painted bright whites and reds with golden trims. A cobblestone pathway led forward and into a town square where a large sculpted fountain stood. A schoolhouse could been seen along with a church, a soccer field, and a variety of different stores. The village seemed completely free from the forest mere feet away.

The group continued through, passing by faces unseen by humans before. What appeared to be children of all sorts ran out of the school, with parents ready to greet them at the nearby homes. But as the two humans received more and more attention, the more silence began to reign over the tight-knit community. Whispers broke out as the group made their way by, with many of the adults doing their best to shush their children, lest they do something rash. Westin, much like Pyrite, was uncomfortable with being watched with such amazement, whereas Ulysses seemed indifferent.

"This is weird." Westin muttered.

Teal turned his head slightly as they continued to walk, "Quiet! You'll have time enough to talk later. Save your breath for when you meet LeBlake."

More villagers began to crowd around the advancing group, whispering amongst their ranks at the strange new creatures. It seemed like a scene out of some movie, thought the two men as they began to pass by the fountain in the square, the path behind them closed off behind a wall of villagers. The fountain itself looked to be sculpted rock with a glassy sheen, chiseled and worked to its final form: a strange, faceless two legged figure standing amongst the spurts of water. It had a quiet solace to it and Westin stopped a moment to admire the crude recreation of himself and his partner. It seemed as if they were passing by the shadow of an older age.

Beyond the square, the cobblestone pathways broke into a single road, one which appeared to be marble slabs laid out and correlated, forming tiny seams between them where not even the most persistent of brooms could eke out the dirt there. And then the group saw it; a structure formed completely from stone, the marble pathway ending at its steps. Pillars, inscribed with archaic characters, stood like sentries above the stairs and beyond them, a lone hallway could be seen beneath the triangular roof, lit by the light of torches that seemed to carry on forever.

Akakois halted and faced the humans and their unicorn counterpart, “You two must carry on alone. LeBlake and the other elders await you and, if you are truly what you say you are, they will be eager to meet you.

Ulysses nodded at Pyrite, “What about this?”

“We will wait here for you. No harm will befall her.” Akakois stated solemnly.

Westin and Ulysses looked briefly at each other without exchanging words. Both sensed a fire in each other and, in synchronization, they began to walk forward, matching each other's strides, their uniforms rippling in the slight breeze. Behind them, the village of palisades, awed creatures, and golden decorations, watched in silence as the two men who had only been born days ago approached the temple. Pyrite knew her charade would be extinguished soon. Somepony was bound to tell those two that there was nothing else like them on the face of Equestria. They would come back out enlightened and with the full obedience of the cultists around her. As if sensing Pyrite’s fear, Lysandra inched closer, her claw on the sword at her hip.

Pyrite saw the subtle action and slackened her body slightly. She knew how to manipulate how others could perceive her stance, so it was best not to draw unwanted or aggressive attention to herself. Instead, her mind was racing, calculating away and desperately thinking up some means of getting through this with the most minimal damage possible. So Lysandra warily pulled away from her sword, eying the unicorn carefully for further movement. Pyrite would have smiled if it wouldn't have broken her facade.

She was going to get through this, somehow. This archaeologist had come too far not to get what she so rightfully deserved. Not even an entire village of zealots would stop her.

Blueblood had been toiling away at his work for the past few days. He had rented out a small cabin situated closely to a river, between both the Appaloosan Mountains and the Forest of Leota. It was easy enough to trick the old mare who had left an ad in the Canterlot Times that he was trying to get away from the city to spend time with his marefriend. She seemed hesitant at first, but even her old heart sprung back to life once her eyes glimpsed a bundle of gold pieces. Money truly could buy you most things in life, he had learned.

Now, the noble spent most of his time awake constructing a series of connections and theories against one of the cabin walls. Documents, charts, and all sorts of testimonies covered it, with strings and tacks linking possible connections and points of interest. Photos of various places within Equestria dotted the wall as well, showing odd geographical occurrences in the most dangerous of locations. One in particular, a set of dunes with a waterfall in the background, piqued his interest the most. It was Froud Valley, the place he had died dozens of times in his dreams. Just seeing the still-life shot of one of the wilder and untamed areas in Equestria teased his innate curiosity. Regardless of what country or continent, there was a definite connection between these perilous zones. Standard Equestrian physics no longer applied at them, and life itself was far more ferocious and harsh.

Blueblood tacked the photo up and stared at it. The thought that his mind attacked him with nightmares of the place made him uneasy, but they were finally winding down to a halt as he came closer and closer to the answers he wanted. Now, all he needed to do was wait for his reconnaissance to return with new information.

And thankfully for his patience, that was a just a few seconds later. A thud came outside the door and it was then opened by a tired batpony mare, who threw off her metal pony-shoes and tiredly trotted to Blueblood. He smiled once he noticed the sealed folder in her mouth.

"Mettle, it's good to see you."


"You sound tired. Get some rest."

She tossed the folder his way and flapped her way to the bed. Yet, instead of getting under the covers, she lied back against the headboard and watched him pensively. After all, she was a mostly honest mare who was prideful about her work, so knowing that she retrieved good results meant a great deal to her.

The stallion used his magic to open the folder and pull free some journal entries, photos, and most importantly, a map. He went to the map first and noticed the markings leading from deep within Froud Valley, all the way to just a bit south of their safe house in the Forest of Leota. A deep frown set itself on his face once he noticed the last known position of his quarry. Mettle had been following them for days, from desert to forest, and even managed to list the places Pyrite had rested at. The final spot was dangerously close to a village of heretics that had once been the bane of Canterlot's elite.

"You didn't have to get so close there, you know. The Valley isn't safe, but they would be willing to kill you on site."

Mettle yawned and brushed his fears away, "Who cares, the info that I got made it worth it. Besides, the canopy was so thick that I could spy on them without them even noticing."

Blueblood frowned at the thought of the cultists living deep in the forest, "They're dangerous." He placed his hoof on a sheaf of journal papers and began to read aloud, "Day one: Spotted the mark moving into Froud Valley. I decided to pull back and make sure my supplies were adequate enough to follow her. With such open terrain, it was easy to catch up with her. Dusk falls quickly in Froud Valley and I made cold camp about a mile back. Last I saw, the mark was moving towards a large waterfall and lake. I'll look for tracks tomorrow. Most likely is that she'll camp there overnight."

Stirring uncomfortably on the bunk, Mettle spoke up, "You'll want to see the photographs after the next one."

Nodding, Blueblood turned to the next page, "Day two: I lost the mark for several hours. A sandstorm hit in the night and I was forced to retreat several miles. When I returned, she was gone. Any tracks had been erased by the storm itself, but the lake provided some clues. I found an alligator carcass washed up on shore. A definite victim of a magic blast. There was also some remains of a primitive type of camp which I first assumed to be the mark's, but as I prepared to leave, I noticed movement behind the waterfall. Apparently there is a large cavern behind it. The mark reappeared in bad shape. I assumed it was due to the storm, but she looked to have been brutally attacked. I made cover behind a large sand dune and waited. She was tailed by what I can only describe as some type of tall, two-legged creature. There were two of them, both dressed in a strange type of garb that seemed unfitting for the desert. One was of much darker color than the other and they seemed to use their arms much as griffons do. I will follow them and write more tonight."

Blueblood levitated the two adjoining photos and hummed to himself. Mettle's description was correct in that they were bi-pedal creatures, but their clothing was strangely familiar. It came off as very blue-collar, like that of a street cleaner or some similar occupation. Alas, the photos themselves were grainy, not very well lit, and easy to scrutinize. The first one reminded him specifically of the famed Big Hoof, who he had the pleasure to once meet. But despite the minor shortcomings, the new information made him almost ecstatic. It was a step in the right direction that would cement his reasons for even being in the region. His aunt of the night would be quite interested in his findings as well, perhaps enough that she might consider giving a certain guard of hers a raise.

He moved onto the next entry and read it aloud, "Day three: The marks entered Leota. Now this is where I can work well. Instead of being high in the sky, I can now keep close contact by hiding in the canopy. It makes me wonder how non-batponies can even do stuff like this without night eyes. Moving on, they set up camp at dusk and did what was becoming their routine. The original searched for berries, one fished around in the nearby water, and the last set up crude sleeping areas. They were almost done when some patrol came by. I've only heard stories about these guys from the older guards, but I backed up a bit when I saw them. 'The Holy Hand' didn't like anypony in their Forest. I overheard them offering the marks a place to stay for the night. I followed them a bit more until I ran out of canopy and sat back. They're likely in the village by now."

Blueblood sat down exhaustedly while Mettle watched him uncomfortably, speaking with a quiet, unsure voice that was unusual for her, “What are those things?”

“I…I don’t know.” Blueblood knew he had just stumbled onto something incredible, “They could be an entirely new species. Froud Valley would be the perfect place for some kind of new species to live in hiding.”

Mettle tapped her hooves together delicately, “So what do we do? The Princesses will want to hear about this.”

Blueblood remained silent and stared at the ominous photos while miles away, behind the walls of a cultist village, two men were about to completely change the history of Equestria.

Author's Note:

This chapter, as well as the next, have undergone dialogue changes to adhere to a teen rating after receiving complaints about the amounts of curse words used.

- Lucius

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