• Published 20th Nov 2013
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FoE: Snippet Story - Windrunner

Set at various points in the Fallout: Equestria universe. Each chapter is intended to be a unique story unto itself. So many references, both ludicrously obscure and blatantly obvious. Even the title. No, not that. You will never figure them all out.

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I Have No Muzzle and I Must Whinny


Far far ago, in a world a long time away..er..wait, that's not right is it? Once ago a time upon..no, no no. Both of those are quite too happy for this one aren't they? We need something more apt, more telling. How about: There was at one time an amazing and vibrant place where bright colors gave rise to the greatest of dreams, where those endless grand dreams actually came true, and then those dreams were snuffed out. It all ended in black and pitch and screaming fire. In balefire and cataclysm they halted for all, perhaps for all time hence. What truly is balefire you may ask? It is infliction, it is misery. The very antithesis of life and purity. It is corruption, it is death, given shape and substance to cheapen life.

It should not exist, it did not exist, until they made it so. A doomsday weapon never to be thrown forth. A great deterrent to stop all fighting and thought of war. It is to laugh. And laugh it did, in the face of all that is good and right. Anything at all pure was tainted that terrible day, in some unfathomable way. A sickness for which there is no cure. Only the hope that it will end. The mere existence of such a terrible weapon guaranteed its misuse. It tears away at the very seems and binds of reality where it lay and thus it did so on countless occasions, creating rifts and fissures of outpouring uncontrollable magics of such force and magnitude so as to deride all idea of good.

Such fonts of power were once a rare natural occurrence wherein pure magic was harnessable from within, to the great delight of the unicorns. The sundered fabric of reality torn open where it pours out now is corrupt, unmanageable, to even try an insanity of its own making. There is and never was anypony with that kind of power. Not even Celestia herself would ever have dared to so much as look upon such a weapon. Seeing her beloved subjects at the throats of invaders only one time was enough to make her withdraw from society entirely, and cease to rule. It was too painful for her to see living things destroying each other in bloody battle.

Despite her own vast power and skill, even she could not be everywhere at once, and the war spread everywhere. That great ruler did want with all her being to put an end to it. She could not, and withdrew to keep silent. Knowing she had the ability, and unable to use it for the benefit of any, nearly drove even her to a kind of insanity. Sobbing quietly in the depths of the great castle, she hid in the one place never expected of her. Weeping in a darkened room, even her sister, normally as cool as the stars in the night sky could hardly stand to see her thusly. Celestia could no longer face the living. Horror was something few ponies knew before the reality of war drew them into a conflict without end.

An interminable ceaseless war without reason and most dire consequences. Luna knew the dark far better than her. She once carried that pain in her own heart, never wishing for her sister to experience it. That was a wish not to be granted. Her one momentary lapse in the past and the terrible price paid gifted her with an understanding of loneliness unprecedented. Where possible she did everything possible to cheer her, for a time avoiding all mention of the very war she was now leading. It could never have been enough. A saddened face in the dark was the last any ever expected to see of her, but there it was. Their one remaining great pillar of strength and unity just stepped aside, and stayed there.

Both could see things were not going that well and getting worse, but at their core they were not the same. Where Celestia stepped aside, she threw herself wholeheartedly into any endeavor that might bring a resounding victory. By this time, any idea that victory would be a glorious affair was long since washed away in tides of agony and missing friends. The one pony to read every list of dead and missing, was her. A price she insisted on paying for being given over to ruling. Out of view, she wept alongside her ailing sister. It was only fair. An icon symbolic of strength mustn't cry in public. A cold wind made of bitter shadow slowly settled across the kingdom.

Fleeting dreams of greatness ended with the terrible realization that there might be no victory, and no end to a puzzling war which just refused to come to a stop. Nothing went right and every move only seemed serve to worsen the state of things. Few could stand to lead this. In the end even the very representative of the night could not prevent the events transpiring to push the final days of the war over the edge of reason into total madness, and madness it was. There can be no other explanation for unleashing this upon the world. All those who came to hail her as a leader beloved almost as much as her sister were wronged. It was a false adoration anyway, where they looked for hope.

Alarms wailing in the distance, all but powerless they stood together on one of the great balconies and watched as their grand country melted away before their very eyes, helpless. Holding each other up, facing the end together in one last futile gesture of defiance. Even they were not strong enough. Both failed the living, and themselves. Perhaps they deserved pity more than all others? The living. They want. An endless and insatiable want. All they are given is more of the same want. In all the wastes, want is all that can be given. The two sisters could leave nor save anything more. Begging and pleading are of no value. It does no good to ask for what is not there for the taking.

There are many stories in the wastes, deadly puzzles and mysteries awaiting an unfortunate soul to stumble upon them. A sip of fresh water and a decent meal is a dream come true, but most likely a disguised nightmare waiting to be unleashed upon the unsuspecting. A mountain of caps would be equal to its own weight in power over others, and in this, power is coveted more than ever. For some it is plain to see it is the one thing to seek. The thoughtful look around and see how far power can reach. It did leave the world as it is. It was a lofty height from which to fall. No wonder no one landed on their hooves. The real wonder is that any survived at all, for the little good it did them. Left to live and die in this.

Time has dragged ever since, like something weights it down. Every year the same or even more miserable than the last. Where is their power now? Was all of it spent on this? All that over a few chunks of rock and steel? No one knows, and none are left to tell the why of it. At least, none willing to say. Living in a city in the sky should have been far more than enough, and vastly more than any could dream of now. Did they want more? Was it even possible to want for more than that? Most would be content with far less, or even one small taste of that fabled time when the world was good. Was it really so good? Is it even possible life was ever so ridiculously grand? If it were so, that time is gone and gone again.

This was the only way it could end. Something that good was probably bound to fail sooner or later. There is only wandering now. Well over a hundred years have passed since it all fell apart in splitting seconds well into the nothingness awaiting. There is no real will here, only scraping, fighting. The crawling, the dead, and the dying. Feeling as though the light abandoned them. This is life? It does not seem right. It does not matter where you are. Everything is the same dulled and deadened hue cast over all things. Can there be nothing more? How much does it cost? Most would pay whatever sum, any price, to return to that terrible moment only to say.. "Stop."

One look at their dirtied and gaunt figure would surely be enough. What gave them the right to do this? They left so little. Being alive hurts nowadays. Wandering with no set destination in the vain hope of finding something better. From the inside out the great turmoils which rippled through the very fabric of society until it could sustain itself no longer had slowly burned it all to ash. The last standing bastions of this society held on for as long as they could without aid or fresh supplies. Hoping in vain some order would come from somewhere. Help, any aid at all. There was none to be had. Anyone that may have thought to help was quickly extinguished.

The magnitude of force leveled against all sides of their conflict was of such scale there is no comparison. The closest one might come is take a single drop of water and hurl it off a cliff, then tell you to go find it. That is, if there were any water left to spare. Waste is not something to be looked on kindly in a world without. How rapidly they turned on each other. Whoever was left, anyway. This pain flowed across the entire land and left little. Happenstance can only save so much. Pure luck really, nothing more. Even the far off reaches not left untouched. From the highest mountain to the lowliest hole, the land was changed. Pocked and damaged in some fundamental way beyond words. Beyond understanding.

The great gates of bastions old and older lay smashed. Some terrific feeling of scorn and bewilderment lay atop the remaining living. There was no escaping this fate. Does fate play with the little actors upon the stage in fickle manner, only to leave them on their own? Most who lay dead and dying were no soldiers. Ordinary run of the mill members of their once golden society lost most, and all. No one can ready themselves for the end of all things come knocking. Hammering at their towers and homes until they collapsed, like some terrible fabled titan, heralding only destruction in its wake. Mistakes were made aplenty. The slow death of the remainder of society began at that very moment.

When time stops, there can come naught but pain and misery in its wake. This spreading misery could only get worse as what precious few lives remained intact sought hope, to find none. Their leaders could not save them. No one could. This deal was done. There was no arbiter party to this to ensure fairness, only the wailing of the dying. The conundrum of all the few left to suffer through the miasma, what to do now? With their infrastructure gone and no one at all left to lead, what else could they do? Falling into the trap sprung by all the anger and hatred left only the destitute. Pride is a long lost feeling, barely remembered. Built to the greatest heights and worn to the barest of memory.

Life, once respected, has nothing to offer the shackled souls forlornly plodding along through the ruins. The only things left to them, the faded signs of greatness. Even a patch of green nearly a forgotten fable. Holding onto hatred is always easy. One of the few things which can be passed along and started with almost no effort. The chains of hate temper themselves ever harder as the world continues to cling to its dreary existence, reinforcing themselves under the illusion that there is anything to gain in doing so. One after another, that anger grows inside until a raging fire which can only burn itself out and consume everything in its path before it does.

It did so in their history, fanned by unseen force and will, and does so now. The murky depths of the darkest hearts sought only to nurture such anger. Their reward was the same as everypony else. Near total annihilation. Their extinguished pride its own pain, and the torn hearts of those destroyed souls wailing in futile regret. Forging ahead has never been a thought since the day the light went out, only survival. The great, the powerful, where did they all go? Not even one survived to prop up the world of the now? The slow grind of what little clings to life has almost no power. Will is a conjuration of the heart and mind to do something, anything to make all the pain go away.

The broken roads, highways and byways long left untended and uncared for a constant reminder that for the ponies, something went right once. They built upon and mastered the whole environment around them. It all lays in quiet ruin now, beckoning passersby to somehow make it right. Can any price make it so? Anger still rises, little else does. What could possibly heal a wound so deep it harmed the world itself? This kind of seething anger can only destroy, it is not a thing of creation and thought. Whatever props up such anger is the only company it keeps. Being kicked in the gut is a difficult sensation to convey. At least, not without doing the same to another.

How much would it hurt to have everything you've ever known stripped away in a mere flash from the heavens above? Now take that feeling and wonder..How can it hurt even more? The providence of chance taught what ponies and others who lived, it can always feel worse. The darkness looming ever greater as their world crumbled about them. To the bansheelike cries of destruction the whole of Equestria, an entire country, and an entire world thought a shining beacon of purity and righteousness, fell. Their whole world laid bare, or so it might be thought. What thoughts must have crossed their minds as all they knew was torn from under them, all around and about? All of it tumbling.

No one actor could possibly have caused this much carnage on such a vast scale. It takes multitudes to set such events in motion, knowing or not. Just action a quickly fading memory. Look how quickly reason goes. Distant fires on the horizon spreading in all directions with none left to bring them into check. It lead to nothing but waste. An unbearable unchecked sadness seemed to spill across the whole of existence as the light fled. Maybe it was fated. Maybe it was destiny. Maybe it just couldn't be avoided, at any cost. This tumultuous upheaval that rendered any map at most, unreliable. At worst, utterly useless. Rivers which burned up in a flash to disperse into the nothingness made it even worse.

Any directly struck would never recover. Those on the edges stood nearly zero chance of surviving, and even if they did, were likely going to die horribly anyway. Few planned for such an eventuality. Even some who did, made errors. For some, the price of continuing to live was just too high. As always, life continued where able. Cheapened, scorned and beaten. How dare they let this happen, how dare they? Even before they were struck, rioting started. Fear does strange things to those letting it consume them. Driving masses to anger and poor decisions. Mob mentality strikes quickly. As quick as any lightning bolt. It just happens and then it is done. What number of them fell for no reason, who knows?

A tally of horror not worth contemplating for any length of time. The end brought with it the greatest of terrors, the shortest, and the longest. Between panic and riot, even more died. Maybe it was actually better for the ones that fell before the raging tide of destruction swallowed the rest just short of whole. Unleashed clashing energies of such proportion as never seen, twisted and warped the very land and sky all around, and even some of the still living. Everything short of surviving lost to nothing but ash and ember.

What tatters remained of the pegasi forces barely managed to contain it to ground level, using the entirety remaining of their number and vast weather control capability to suppress what was happening below. It was a hollow victory, leaving all bereft. What great pride they amassed, shorn from them so rapidly. What a joke. Only, no one was laughing. For themselves or others, no one really won anything here. How it must have hurt. A stinging barb that cannot be removed. This cruel joke is far from funny. Poisoning their hearts and souls against life itself. The fear and driving pain inside is all that is known now. The realization come too late they had everything, and lost it all over little.

How petty they must have felt in surviving this affront to all things. All it took was the slightest little push here and there and suddenly the great houses of cards shiny exteriors, polished to a mirror sheen, slowly showed their cracks and then crumbled to dust in mere seconds. This tragedy so unbecoming. An insult to those claiming to protect the greater good. One with true weight behind it. A torment and torture like none other to know, they failed. Their very task itself the most monumental failing of all. Could they all be held accountable on some fundamental level? Once started on the path of true war, no side would yield, but doing so was never a real thought.

The enemy would not have stopped, as the fundamental problems would have remained. The hungry engines of industry, eventually driven by the very war itself, demanded ever more of ever less. The few spark reactors in existence held such promise, but by this time were barely able to hold up. Being quite new made them unreliable and difficult to maintain at best. The expense and complexity of even building them so new that they were rife with issues from the start. One almost exploded on start. Perhaps the smallest glimpse of things to come. It mattered little. The war ended on the worst note ever to sound, and was itself blotted out. Those born into what followed, know nothing better.

It is a dagger piercing the heart such that it cannot be removed, to let the poison settle in. Some poisons do not hurt. This one slipped in so easily it was never noticed, and now it is there. Deadening the world more as is its wont. What merit is there in trying? All that does is make it hurt more and more. The sheer totality of death and destruction rained across the world, not even the most wicked and blackest of hearts could celebrate this. Did they know what they were doing? Did anyone even imagine it would turn out like this? There were those that tried, as hard as they could. It would never have been enough to satiate the growing anger.

The divide between the armies that threw themselves at each other could only widen. When it came to be that both sides only held the view that absolute victory was a must, was this the exact moment when hope ended? A guarantee that all would suffer? All sides have those who do not wish to fight. Did they suffer most of all for their stand? All anypony wanted was their fair chance at a good life. Was it too much to ask? Nothing answers the questions on the wind. Even the sky was once their domain, and still that was not enough. Was it greed? A simple misunderstanding? Simple misunderstandings are the ones which spiral completely out of control against all efforts to prevent them.

One disaster after another piling up atop them, what else could they do? Fight, and fight harder. The end was never actually in sight. Those in the know, truly understood this. Those who may have given warnings had them either fall on deaf ears, or were taken as worrying too much. The amassed ponies great armies imagined they were winning, which is exactly why those warnings were given. There is nothing so stark as a warning unheeded and ignored. Filed away under little more than misgivings. Where were those mighty armies of old in the end? So powerless they were whisked away like they never existed? All life starts as a promise. Once held as a sacred gift upon whom it was imparted.

The respect it deserved was lost somewhere along the line. When exactly life became this travesty is unknown to the ponies and others left to live and wander, carrying with them some misunderstood shame within they cannot shake. On they lived. Surprisingly many did. In pain. Misery and suffering throughout. What happened? Losing not only the war, but themselves. Over short span, anger turned to cruelty. Misplaced as ever. After all, what did it matter? Now, with little power left and no will to actually try doing anything cohesive, the few remaining forces fell into disarray, and then split apart. There is little use for a command structure when there is nothing left to command, and fewer still to follow it.

The fight was over, right? Communications between what was left became sporadic, then ceased due to becoming quite literally impossible for the most part. A terrifying static rose up on what working equipment remained, and as transmissions ceased, a sense of ill foreboding. If there was even anypony left to hear it anyway. What could possibly be left to forebode? Things fell apart almost as quickly as the war itself ended. The outpouring of uncontrollable magic spilling forth and consuming everything in reach like an unstoppable tidal wave. Helpless is a word. In the end, it is nothing more than one of many. The feeling itself is so much worse.

If even the grand Canterlot shields were of no real use here, what good was anything else? After the shining capital fell, ever smaller groups wandered the smoldering ruins of the whole countryside. It was just too much. A dreadful quiet settled, to become a silence which is ever-deafening. To the broken hearts and minds that still lived, hopeless. Even the one given hope, the great Stable-Tec Stables below, mostly turned out to be nothing of the sort. Shortsightedness and folly, and even simply bad planning. Cut corners meant more death and destruction needlessly piled on. Trying to survive took on new meaning here in this blasted land.

A land where so many vying powers smashed into, and ultimately extinguished one another. Time and again the pony and zebra armies fought here, for what? Vying to score a victory that never quite materialized for either side, but why this? Why go so far? Did losing the war truly mean this much to their empire? Destroying everything for everybody is the coldest of actions, surely there can be none colder. War was one thing. Absolute and total ruin is incomprehensible, unfathomable. To stand and watch as you caused the entire world to fall apart, something else altogether again still. To this day the inheritors of this pathetic and cold world have little choice but to wander.

When all the world became one big funeral pyre, the flames and torrents racing closer as blood pounded fast and hearts dropped. Where did their hope go? So many, assured of victory, now stood quaking as they saw their end landing atop them. The oceans worth of flowing tears in that instant, still not enough to stop it. How could any of them be forgiven now? Just look what they did! They allowed this, of all things to happen. The world turned to twisted ruins in a single flash of light and fire precipitated by the will of what must have been utter insanity. What else could it have been? The sheer speed of their ruin impossible to gauge. All the ruins do now is languish, forever appearing to ask for forgiveness.

The world itself standing as a quiet mausoleum. A testament to such grand stupidity, to have so calmly invited disaster. It should never have happened. Of all things that could stand, this one thing should not be. The light dulled and near extinguished for what? Pride, maybe. Nopony really knows for sure. The true creators of this abyss of pain are long extinguished themselves. Death was probably too good for the likes of them. The rest which remained should be so lucky as to have gone with them. Why even survive, here, now? What is left but the crumbs and wreckage of time forgot? Where do you go when there is no path forward?

Unable to hold up the slightest light in the darkness, not even the merest hint of hope remained in this, an eternal and disquieting lullaby for this unclimbable mountain of grief and sorrow. The quiet tomb which the world became sat in reverence of the fallen for uncounted ages. Hardly disturbed. Few cared anymore. Most, died. Sometime, somewhere, something set forth the slightest spark of light. How dare light intrude on this deadened place now? Light does not deserve to be seen here, not in this place solely consistent of death and dead hope. It should just be crushed, stamped out underhoof like all things were. Unbidden and unwanted. The great and uncaring tides of misery must not be interrupted.

Just die already. Hope already did. Why won't they stop trying? There is nothing to be gained. Nothing. It is already all gone. Go ahead. One more time. One more gamble on the already extinguished light. Some candles cannot be relit. Try as you might, and try with all you have. It has been over for ages now. What gives rise to such torment? Most things even when large are at least comprehendable. The scope of the ever-expanding war was perhaps not something which could even be understood. It grew only more outsized as things progressed from bad to worse, to agonizing, to belief-defying. Comfort was never given during, and especially not after its end. The lost and the dead number many.

Most lay forgot in unmarked graves never to be known to the world, or worse. The chill pall which leadens the air and depresses the spirit refuses yield to any sign of life returning or hope. The world is dead, quiet and still. A world very nearly of and for them. Those silent voices calling for their retribution. No one wants to listen. Struggling only seems servant to this quiet desperation and despite all efforts, declares such struggles lacking in sincerity or meaning. Who would dare to fight against it? Just more of the insignificant, the helpless, the worthless. Left to go traipsing about in dark held forth, as if a prize worth having. There is nothing here you may have, not without a fight. Only that empty silence left to the wastes.

Monsters may lurk there, waiting in the mist. For the unfortunate, the unwary and those just a little too careless. Sometimes they are seen. Mostly they are not. In dark unseen where dead eyes rot. Every finally passing moment is its own eternity of agony and pain. No summons of good is answered, no prayer to the above given call. Terror is the name of the day. Suffering the title of the foremost. The very path left to the living is naught else but more of the same. Where did it all go? It looks like there was so very much. Enough for all and to spare. Was it all an illusion? Those great builders of old put it all together, only to let it crumble away? Clinging to their misery is all that remains.

Surely, there is something left, somewhere? The mighty of old do not stand. What chance have you? The unforgiving world about you is dread, left solely to the dead who once claimed it as their own. It lies outside the right of the living to tamper with the dead. You can take what they had, all they owned and were in life, but you cannot have them. This unspoken rule is never to be broken. They are gone. You may not have them back. Never. That veil is unyielding, but even so. Every once in a great long while they speak. The monuments to all that were consumed in hate are scattered all about. You need not look far. The world itself is evidence of this. What it gives voice to is only resentment, and pain.

Little more than junk really. The volumes it tells about those who lived and died a tragedy of such proportion it defies understanding. Who let it come to this? All of the past foregone. It can only consume those who may one day wander by. How do you set to rights this cosmically scaled and ridiculous wrong? Nothing separated the innocent and guilty. All know suffering here. Those silent voices crying for justice in this crypt the world has become. Echoes stirring in the dark. Awaiting a light which may never come. A shattered piece of darkness itself landed here. A tiny fraction of hate left to fester and grow. The weak of will, let it be. No warning would have been too great or dire to be given. None was.

Not the slightest alarm in the face of endless realms of emptiness. Silly, really. What can a little chunk of metal do? Perhaps more than you think. Coveting power is one thing. Wanting all of it is quite another entirely. Corruption is easy. Quick. By far more preferable to the surety and slow pace of truth. This means forgetting that truth is always the most painful and powerful weapon of all, facing it hurts. If you come to know the truth, you also come to know pain. These things are inextricably linked. How much pain would it take to make up for this? It might be the only way to pay for it. Suffering never needed to look far, now it need not look at all to find its hosts. All that live on, know this too well.

Good feelings become as fleeting as a passing heartbeat. The drums of war settled too late and left them this. The whole of nothing. In all the world not even one truly good thing left to reach out for. That hope was stolen away as well. The living might as well be the dead, for all the difference that distinction makes now. It is said the only real secrets keep themselves. What secret could possibly have lead to this, and why would anybody have kept it? Both sides thinking they had the answer, it was really the exact opposite. All were wrong and proven so by this end. Even in such utter defeat, neither side could ever admit they made a mistake. They were wrong. Left to wander in the dark, pained and humiliated.

Those who claimed to be protectors of the good could barely comprehend this failure, or accept it happened. Someone else must be at fault, anyone but themselves. It could never have been us. Where did the light of hope go? Why did it abandon us here? Is this really all life has left to offer? A dim and endless trudge towards death? There must be more. There has to be. The only real secrets are dangerous. No one should possess them for any reason. The daring may catch a fleeting glimpse, but they may not hold them. Not ever. The tipping point of insanity pushed beyond this boundary. This impassable line between death and life. Built up for so long, just to wither away?

The chiming clocks of the past are silent as to what time it is. Forever stopped at the exact moment both happiness and life failed to fulfil its promises. It didn't keep its end of the bargain. Where is the light? Where has it gone? Did it retreat into some unknown hiding place? Can it really have gone out? Where? The last vestiges of life cling to anything. Does it as well? Is it really so humiliating to have retreated before a formidable foe? The darkness never stops pressing in from all sides. The only goal it ever has is to extinguish the light. It has no thoughts, no feelings either, only an all-consuming goal. Make the light go out. Never knowing that without up, there is no down.

Time itself might as well have stopped along with the clocks. Maybe it did? There is certainly no progress here. Was something really so powerful as to destroy time? Nothing would have that lofty a goal, would it? The impression of a futile goal is all that gives. The just and the wicked, all have needs. Only difference is, there may not be any of the just remaining. On the wind the stifled voices of countless numbers whisper in vain, fix this wrong. There are few to hear it. This chasm of hollowness and hope. What hope can there be when life is very nearly stilled? The cracked and crumbling world sits idle, a vacuum of pain and sorrow.

Trotting along the forgotten roads of times past stirs only some unsettling resentment towards those who came before. All their grand roads lead nowhere. Relegated to the dimmest memories of haunted moments, that longing inside grows and gnaws, refusing to relent. Why? Why must we wander their broken domain? They left us absolutely nothing. What was wrong with them? What could have spurred the rulers of the world to let it come to this? Tears are all that is given. In the sorrowful dull light of day and the dread of night. Hope? The plight of the living leaves no room for that. With reckless abandon the world plunged into something rather less than chaos and this is where it landed.

A twisted grotesque caricature of itself. Winding roads once carved in better times left empty of all but the most stout. They do not wander out of bravery, that only ends your life faster. Necessity is all that drives now, or some sickness of spirit. Once soaring, the high hopes of bygone eras are shattered, erased. They built such colossal and mighty things. How did they fall? The great and powerful could not even defend one single city from their own weapons? This silence instilled across the land in a mere instant of weakness. The weak or the strong, it mattered not in the end. They both succumbed, to let the world collapse along with their failure. This insult to life is abhorrent.

If those still living knew what brought it all to a close, what could they think? Would it matter? The long history of the world is forever lost, sentenced to quiet indignation. A rare insight into the past all that can be found. Through long wandering and hardship, the pain just keeps piling on. The pressure, persistent and unbearable. A too heavy weight to chain the living. There are great things sitting there, rusting. Decaying. Relics, myths and legends withering away until none will know what they once were. They might even be useful if anyone understood them. Great buildings of old still stand and sway, eventually to fall. It might be an impressive sight when they do, if anypony were around to see it happen.

There are far more important things to worry about. Looking too closely only impresses a longing in sickened spirits needing rest they can never have. This is how it is, there is nothing more. Below and above there is only more of the same pain to be granted. The illusion of sanity and safety is only that. Imagining there are either here only means you have fallen for the same lie which took the rest. A gathering solely of the dregs is all there can be. Wishes are not given no matter how hard the cry for it to be so. This pervasive atmosphere of distrust, inherent anger and feeling of guilt holds sway over everything that is.

Many a song has gone unsung and unheard since the fires blistered and cracked the foundations of the world. Like many of the happiest things, most were lost to memory. It stirs some disturbing feeling of want and need inside always tugging at the hearts of the wearied. A forever nagging feeling pushing and tormenting from within. Do something, anything to make it feel right. Few listen, it invites a torment most unrequitable. Unable to reconcile all that is wrong sickens the minds of the wandering, though they know it not. There is no drive to set things to rights amongst the quavering voices of the wounded, and wounded they are. Good cheer is almost a thing unheard of.

Perhaps it stems from the same injury which sickens the world. The same poison that silences the stone and seeps into the bones. No greater embarrassment could have been meted out to the ponies of old than this future that has no future, where ponies dare continue the thinnest existence imaginable. This is what they wrought. No one wanted this, surely? This great lie which is the wastes is no reward. Opinions of the old world vary wildly, but they all land on this: This is wrong. Very few would disagree. Should they somehow come calling, the dead might hold a much different opinion of the now. Would the dead cry an endless lament for all the pain they left gifted to the living who followed them? They cannot help.

They are gone. Their histories forgotten, their triumphs negated, blackened. You know nothing of them, save for their having existed at all. Time unmoving leaves the world still. Motionless. What little life remains is battered, hardened against this reality. Each and every second drags on for its own small eternity in the dimness. The blackened husks of once great works all that remains as their legacy. Who can comprehend such madness which brought it to this? Would any care to try? The futility of such an endeavor may be madness itself. The deepest wounds are not always the ones carrying the most pain with them. Slight injuries can yield far more over the course of time.

A quick glance around is all it takes to confirm this as truth. The young once given hope, are generally given nothing here, save for a growing anger. Hopelessness. The roots ever twining tighter together as they pull the very foundations of life into the dark, piece by piece. What hope can there be for the empty? Each step only invites further disaster and misery. Every action a terrible gamble on instability. What terrible power wrought this? Once considered precious, time just ebbs away in the now. Should you not be able to look to your parents for guidance? In this world, they know of nothing more than pain either. They have nothing to offer. Maybe even less than that.

The downfall of all pony kind, and everything else pulled into the fold left you this. Forever on the march towards nothing. Searching, seeking. To what end you do not know. There must be something? You feel it inside. A great yearning, and nothing to fill the hole. What do you want? It cannot be told. Why must you live in this misery? There are no answers for you. Only that terrible need you cannot quell. For all your time it pushes and pushes, something inside saying this is not right. You can do nothing about it but feel anger. Do something? What is there to do? Was there ever truly a time when things were not like this? They all say so, before they too die, leaving you on your own once more.

There is nothing but ashes left to you, and the attendant misery. You were like the rest, once. Another simple wanderer looking for a home none can find. They say the misery that is life now is all there can be. The great ponies of old were punished for some unfathomable crime and all now live with this suffering, their punishment given over. Forlorn, hungry, thirsty. There is never enough of anything for you or anypony else around you. Little more than safety in what numbers you can maintain, and even that fails. Your goal as ever is nothing more lofty than living. If this can be called living. Parents, nor their children tend to live very long within this misery. Is there nothing more? Always sick, always weak.

You're so tired of it all already, but you can never get past that burning sensation deep in your gut. Sometimes it is the only thing pushing you to move on. You don't know why. The only thing you do know, is that you either grow up fast or not at all. Watching as most around you quickly pass. This is the best they can do? By now, you barely recall your parents faces. They were gone quickly. Why did they even bother with you? You might be angry with them if it weren't for the fact they suffered as much as you do now. Sometimes you find something almost nice. You do not trust it when you do. It never lasts. The merest hint that life may have actually been good for ponies at one time is like being chopped right in the throat.

A horrible pain that just won't stop. You know not of rest or peace. Did these luxuries ever really exist? On guard at all times, you can only wander. Recognizable faces come and go too quickly. She was pretty. You made the mistake of coming to care for her. Now she lies in a heap like so many others. Tears won't even come. You just leave her there in the dirt for the scavengers, if there are even any of those around here. Her body may lay there for a great long time, undisturbed. Maybe for all time. You give up caring. She is gone, and didn't take you with her. How dare she get to rest? It was a weakness. A hole in your heart. There is only one thing to do. Be angry. So very angry and bitter.

A chance meeting gives you pause and great consternation. A silent stallion wanders the wastes as many do, but he is not the same. An aimlessly fleeting flash. There and gone. He makes no sounds. He never speaks. Never interacts, then he is away. Carrying all the darkness of the world with him. Always watching from afar, then vanished. Little more than a passing shadow in a world of them. Sometimes one would catch the faintest glimpse of him out of the corner of their eye, glaring, and quiver. What does he want? Who could he be? Why is he here? With that his withering gaze and the abject terror they inflict are gone. He does not exist. An imagined threat where there are far more pressing real ones.

Never a further thought given. A meandering spirit following no particular path. Was he ever there? Just a trick of the mind. A pony with no weapons at all, daring to wander the wastes alone? He is not real, you are certain. A ghost story in passing. There is enough fear without a fake one. Who would be crazy enough to do that? You would die. Death is all that could await somepony like that. A chill down the spine. A strange noise from behind. Watch out. Again. He isn't real. A quick glance to be sure. Nothing. He is as fake as all the unfulfilled promises life made. Fearful hearts made gladder in knowing he was never there. You will not fear him.

Nothing more than the crazed rantings of burnt out souls still clinging to life, like you. An empty threat where definite ones exist. There are far more than enough real dangers to bother getting all panicked over an unreal one. A tricked mind is one prone to getting oneself painfully killed. In the wastes there is no certainty. Only scraping by, or not. The wrong choices add up far too quickly, and when they do. Catastrophe. No hope is offered here. Only the solace of life ending. Prayers will not be answered. Resources only exist in the smallest amounts, sprawled across the countryside. The only real way to live is to wander. Alone or together, when rumor tells you even that is a bad idea, what choice is left?

Take up anything that can be used as a weapon and go. That story comes by yet again. A seemingly aimless apparition, glaring back from the dark and gone. Good thing he's not real. You note how much power fear wields. A year passes in the haze of growing despair, and you hear another odd story from some very sickly ponies, sure to die soon. You listen to them only in the hopes of finding something more. Now, two ponies wander the wastes alone. She is insane even by the measures of insanity, there and gone again. An impossibility of all reason. A shadow just like him. A mare who who treads through flame and fire as if they mean nothing, bringing ruin with her. What are they talking about?

There is little left to ruin. She is just another apparition, as she must be. A ghost in the wastes. They seem plentiful now. How pathetic. There is something very wrong with these stories. Why are these ponies so afraid of nothing? It digs deeply into your mind. You offer the only thing you can, a faster end. They actually accept it, being even more ill than they initially let on. They could not muster the courage to do it to themselves. Hardly a scrap to take, but still better than nothing. Giving them their way out felt strangely good? Did you really do them a favor? It is a feeling you don't know, and one you probably will not feel again. By the same token, you wonder if you could do it either.

You did not promise to bury them or anything, only to end them and move on. The one charitable thing you could ever do, is done. There is nothing further to take from them than their lives. There they will likely lay untouched. You have witnessed this scene before. Do all trails lead only to this? A dreary end and nopony to care? You never bothered to ask their names, there was no point in doing so. There never is. The story they told nearly mirrors the other. What could it possibly mean? It does confirm your thoughts that fear is powerful. How far must you wander, for how long? Will it be only to end up like them? There might not be anypony to end your misery as you did theirs.

Looking over what you have done, for once you almost shed a tear. You turn and leave before that happens. Why bother? They meant nothing to you. Just some more garbage to be tossed aside amid the mountains of it. Maybe they even deserved it. There was little reason to find out whether they did or not. Who cares? You got something out of it for once. Grief and sorrow abound in the now, even quieter wastes. Step by step it deepens. Decay reaching ever further into what little remains. Soon to be swallowed whole, and forgotten for all time. The pervading misery gives rise to no hope. Only scattered tatters, and the slightest glimpse of anything resembling life.

The land forever waiting for a return of that which is not coming. Ponies and others trudging silently towards the only possible end. All light is rapidly extinguished in this void of hope and longing. It left long ago, leaving only fading memories. Memories which themselves are not quite solid. Did such a time ever really exist? When life could actually be happy? It does not seem possible. Not when everything only slowly gets worse. The light is not coming back, not even its reflection. There are supposed to be two sides to a bit. The dying embers of society still flicker occasionally. It amounts as all other things, to nothing. Settlements are barely able to hold together or supply themselves, let alone expand further.

Most fail at some point, to be abandoned. Creating more ghost stories. Without will nor hope, how could they go on? It is beyond hopeless. Futile. Impossible. Time to move on once again. The concept of a real home, long lost to them, and you. A place to be, a place to go and belong. There aren't any. Only the angry and the miserable. Rivalries and violence constantly being intensified by the lack of resources. Where are we going to go? Nowhere is good, and nowhere is happy. As things become ever more desperate, all the races of the world find themselves teetering right on the edge of absolute oblivion. The war did not quite wipe everyone out. It simply set the stage for even worse things to happen. No one cares.

You want something? Take it. By whatever means necessary. Everyone else does. Become violent, and murderous. Become so atrocious the other atrocious things fear you instead. Gripped with rage and hatred, take it all for yourself. Who cares, anyway? You want a say in things? Do it by force. Make them hear you, and if they don't like it? Boom. Solitude was something one once had to seek. Now it is the forever, stretching out in front. There is no reason in this, only an empty loneliness that cannot quite be conveyed. The wearying miles ahead always seeming to pull away and become longer. Is there no end to this road, rife with pain and some unassumed guilt that can never quite be shook off? We didn't do it.

Whoever did was pulled into the void along with most of the rest of everything. Somehow, the world still exists. A small anomaly that calls for nothing but more pain. The few remaining cannot pull so much more than a trigger. Failing even that, where is left to go? There is no safe haven granted to the begging. Then, your few and miserable companions die. Here, now, sometimes even being a slave means a continuance of living. A welcome change because it's not your fault. When something goes wrong, it was their doing instead. You have given up. Even if you die, at least they can't blame you this time. Eventually even they have no further use for you and toss you aside. Only, you don't die.

For whatever reason you continue living. For some unexplained reason you find this maddening. Anger takes ever deeper hold of your heart and you follow suit, doing as they once did. Fighting your way through the ranks. You never felt so powerful before. They all look to you with fear, now. At last you feel some meaning to your existence, drinking it in. Fear is what they know of you. Now, if you die, you did something. They knew savagery before, you will instill it even deeper within them. That biting drive to take. If this is all that can be, you will take all of it for yourself. Soon, other raiders and slavers come to join. You will make them pay for even asking.

Some may still prove worthy of the fear you will grind into them with your own hooves. You know the wastes, and the ponies in it are weak. The weak have no place here. Is that all the world can muster against you? They are pathetic. Were you really just like the rest? Forget friends, fear is where the real power is. If nothing else, the ghost stories have taught you this. You know that with time, you will be ground into dust just like the rest. It doesn't matter at all. For a time at least, somepony may actually remember your face once you're gone. This is an achievement beyond measure. It has taken all you could muster to do it, but now you rule this ragtag band of raiders, and they fear every step you take.

Every time you raise your voice, every time you threaten and push them to do what you want and none other. You are strong, the strongest there is. They would do well to remember it. The few remaining shiny things are yours to take, preferably by force. Still, you don't kill those who put up no resistance. Much to your little bands perturbance. A good bash across the muzzle takes care of any doubts they have. This is no kindness to them. Sometimes they make good slaves. You recall being one once. It is just their turn to suffer. Maybe it will make them strong as it did you. It is either that or they can die. Either choice is little better.

You almost feel a bit of sympathy for them, then promptly recall nopony was ever willing to help you either, or was there? Something about a mare. Maybe she meant something to you once. Who cares? Take and take and take. It all belongs to you. You are almost living the good life. That is of course, impossible. You are just stamping your hooves and putting on a show. A good fight once in a while livens things up. It is usually too long in between. Always nice to see one of your followers get gunned down in a momentary haze, one less worthless muzzle to stuff and put up with. It almost makes you feel alive for a change. It is gone too quickly.

You have come to understand the fact you must keep the slightly smart ones around. Thankfully they tend not to get killed quite as easily. Thinking was never an easy thing for you. They might be smarter than you, but not more ruthless or terrifying. Keeping them in line is only a matter of inflicting pain and terror at the right moment. Something you have learned well. They will follow you, or they will follow no one. You know when to extinguish them. The exhilaration of infliction is all you live for now. A great deal of time passes in this manner. Years later, there is that one story again. Why won't it go away? A miserable spectre, glaring. Never proven. Stirring up fears even further and causing strange reactions.

If they're more afraid of nonexistent ghosts than you, this is a problem. You can't fight a ghost. It has no limbs to lop off. No body to stab. No head to cave in. What do these mindless apparitions want? What are you thinking? They were never there. Probably just some random wastelanders seen at a distance. Giving rise to nonsense stories. There is no end to this. Only more violence to engage in. Beat it into them that you are more to be feared than some apparition. They will soon forget all about them. The glaring eyes they fear in the dark should be yours. Anything else is unacceptable. Make them bow to your will and yours alone. That is how it must be. They will soon come into line. Whoever is left. That's better.

If they need something to fear, fearing you is by far the better choice. Let any ghosts roam elsewhere. It is of no consequence. This place is yours now. Both can stay away. They are dead things, and the dead do not belong among the living. Slipping back into the mire, the stories fade into more jumbled half-forgotten memories as you wander and terrorize. This is kind of fun. So many years pass and then, one springs up again. A pony with a withering stare never quite truly seen who wanders the wastes, alone. What prompts this figure to return, time and time again? Just after he is forgotten, he is there once more. On it goes. Ghoulish figures and beasts are not entirely uncommon in the wastes. This is different.

Why does this perfectly average pony strike fear into all those catching the faintest glimpse? What could possibly be so frightening about a normal pony? Angry faces are not uncommon either. It comes and goes. This story fades yet again towards being nothing more than a figment of the imagination, only to arise again years later. It fights you to no end and no avail. You do realize, these stories of ghosts are what made you strong and fearsome. They have done you a favor, really. Granted you power. Having lived a truly long life, you have seen and heard much. Left an indelible mark on those to come after. A legend in your own time. Somehow, you did it. As one of the few raiders ever to reach old age, you wonder.

This life actually turned good for you. A decade or two here and there, and here comes the story yet again. Your long life is thanks to those miserable ghosts and their stories, they made it so. Over and over. Always nipping at your hocks. Pressing and angering you. Somewhere in your blackened heart there is some thankfulness for those stories, they made you strong and kept you that way. It has been such a long road. Finally, it is time. You gravely warn the last challenger you will ever face that not only will you not go down easily, they will face what you have faced. Beings who are neither here nor there, always usurping your authority in their nonexistence. He will remember your words.

Soon, a tremendous battle ensues. Giving your final challenger the scars he will need to prove himself and lead. You've got plenty of them. It was an epic battle. You finally fall, dying, exhilarated. What is yours is now his. You gave a sound bashing he and those gathered will never forget, before coming up just short. This is as it should be. A fitting end for you. What is this deep inside? You feel, truly happy? Of all the things you have ever felt, this one feeling is new to you. As this world slowly slips from sight you wonder, what awaits? In death will you finally know the truth of the ghosts? Are such things revealed when you slip from this?

You don't know if you made the right choices along the way or could have done any differently. The wearying years hung more heavily upon your conscience than you could admit to yourself, and now you welcome your end. You have known naught but brutality for so long. Let somepony else cause hurt and be hurt now. There has been enough pain and blood for you. Through these many years you have given enough back to be satisfied at last. The assembled raiders cheer your passing. Some of them do grow slightly concerned by the unsettling smile locked on your face in death. Perhaps it will start a rumor of its own. That would please you to no end.

Your face, your actions, and name may actually be remembered for a time. More than you ever hoped for.

- - - - -

Hmph. Shadowy ghost ponies, how ridiculous is that?

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