• 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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Lost Path


Traveler stood transfixed as a horrible monstrosity shuffled forward. A true monster like none she had ever imagined. The vaguely familiar outline of her adoptive parents lumbered forth from the darkness, lurching. Magnificent and the other pony she didn't know had bolted up the stairs after Boss and smashed through the door above in an effort to stop him. They were not aware of what was happening down here. Bloated and sickening looking, the awful visage slowly lumped along forward towards her from within the dimness. Reaver still lay off to the side of the room in pain, snickering at her misfortune. Why was he like this? Boss hurt him too.

"You stupid foal. Hahaha. Look what you get for messing with Boss." He chortled like a demented lunatic.

"Loser. Witless naive child. Aahahahahaha. Death comes for you." Reaver was cackling and gloating from the side of the room where he fell. At least he hadn't moved since then. Perhaps she actually had managed to hurt him. The vision before her was far worse a thing. In the dark beneath the twin staircases something awful was stirring to step out of night terrors and into waking reality. This could not be. This must not be true. There was no way this was actually happening. It's a bad dream. It has to be! Traveler huffed and panted when confronted with this, dismayed and grandly alarmed.

In absolute terrified manner Traveler stepped back. Horror was striding forth from the darkness. Every nerve and feeling was telling her to run away and never look back. This was pain made incarnate. How? Why? This was vastly out of her league. She felt incredibly small and cowardly as the moaning dead thing approached. Boss had turned her parents into some kind of deadly joke. Stay away. It's motions were not of the living. Twitchy and difficult to look at as it walked lopsidedly. Sickness. Seeing this muttering savage slathering beast inflicted an illness of the soul. A wretched brutish abnormal behemoth emerged, ragged manes and twin tails hanging behind it. Her own parents were going to crush her.

"S-stay away!" Traveler couldn't think straight. This sight was too much to bear. None should have to face this. No one. Why was this being done to her? Her parents always tried to be and do good by her, and this was what they got? They were already dead. They didn't deserve this at all. Each fibre of her being cried out for escape from this nightmare. This can't be real, wake up. Please, wake up. It was real. The beast made from her parents would be on her any moment now. As with several times before, Moonlight's systems detected nothing unusual about them. What was wrong with that? It made no sense at all. Reaver registered the same way, as did the nameless pony from before. What was going on?

The horrific half-sewn together corpses of her parents were getting closer. Puffed out and expanded from death and decay. The thing wheezed terribly as it approached. What had Boss done to her parents!? Everything was amiss.

"No no no!" Traveler screeched in a panic, backpedaling away from this hideous construction of flesh and sinew as it swiped at her with a forehoof, swinging and smashing apart the wall beside it. It might be even stronger than Reaver.

"Mom, dad..please stop! Don't you know me!?" Traveler moaned in terrified confusion. The rest of her group were desperately pounding on the apparently unbreakable panel which had dropped from above, unable to gain entry and assist. Reaver spoke.

"This is rich. Oh mommy, daddy, please don't hurt poor little me." He made mimicking motions of her backing away, bursting into somewhat pained laughter, mocking her predicament. What was wrong with this guy?

"Sh..shut up!" She said, gasping for breath as she faced off with this horrid thing. This was wrong. It should not be happening. The sickening crunching and snapping coming from the thing in front of her added another layer of disgust to it all. This was beyond surreal. A break in reality itself. Traveler knew of death and creatures and other horrible things out in the wastes, but what was this? It was incorrect. It could not be happening, yet it was. She was being forced to fight the somehow resurrected halves of bodies belonging to two ponies she loved with all her heart in life. Why!?

Gunnar was smashing on the panel with all his might but it would not budge or break. None of them could help her. If only Magnificent hadn't gone after Boss. She couldn't decide what to do, avoiding this muttering crazed thing that was her parents. Didn't whatever was left of either recognize her at all? It was all Traveler could do to avoid it. It was quick, just like her father. The disfigured misshapen and misfigured form of her parents kept on attacking.

"Stop, please! It's me!" She begged of this caricature of life. It kept swiping at her with hugely destructive blows. Reaver was completely ignored by it for some reason. What was she going to do? She couldn't do this. Anything but this. Not this!

"Oh yes, that will surely help. You can't even kill them? Bwahahahaha." Boss son was not making this any easier.

Each swing it took had a sort of force following it that was difficult to estimate, but it seemed to amplify impacts into anything it struck, nearly quadrupling the force behind each. This was crazy. A true monster had set another monster loose upon her. Why was everything that Boss did some kind of horrific action to take? Why would he have done this to her poor parents? They never even met him. Did he just do this kind of thing for some kind of sick amusement? What really was he? That was no pony. Definitely not. Some sort of true evil. He must be to have raised the dead to do his bidding? Frightened out of her wits and engaged in a dangerous dance with this flailing thing was deathly dangerous. She had to try and think.

"Silly little filly. Give up now and I'll make it sure it's over quickly for you, dope of a foal." Reaver was taunting her again too? Did he not realize what happened earlier? Boss just left him here without the slightest care for his own son. The suit systems kept targeting the creature and suggesting opening fire. She couldn't fire upon them. Not them. Not her parents.

"Please, you have to be in there somewhere. Stop this!" Traveler was begging them to stop trying to destroy her but the thing kept coming at her. One good direct blow from their hooves could crack her suit open like an egg. Why was everything she ever wound up facing so ludicrously strong? Oh, why did it have to be them? Nearly anypony else she could have handled.

The creature was getting more wildly aggressive as this dragged on. A this rate it would tear her apart eventually. The askew half-faces of her parents were so horrible to see. The drooling slathering repugnant thing was even biting at her in a completely crazed rage. What was she going to do? The pony with no eyes was still laughing and chuckling evilly.

"Give in to fear. Let it finish you. Appalling deficient foal." Reaver kept taunting and teasing. Traveler was getting completely unnerved by his constant stream of hurled abuse as she continued this deadly ballet. Finally, she had a thought on what to do. It was a dim hope at best.

"Reaver..I..I want you to come with us. Join us." Traveler said, avoiding another blow that smashed the wood flooring sending splinters flying everywhere. What? The group could hardly hear, but were all shocked by her question.

Have Reaver join them? Was she actually nuts? Tasket yelled through the panel, just audibly enough to hear.

"What are you doing? Are you crazy!? He tried to kill you. You said he killed them!" She was trying to lift the panel or break through as well. It simply would not move an inch. It must be some sort of old-world material they knew nothing of.

"What a laugh. I must have hit you even harder than I thought." Reaver groaned and chuckled in a low growl almost.

The thing was totally out of control, smashing anything Traveler got near. Taking a hit from that would be bad, but it was very inaccurate. Were it not for that, it's speed would have finished Traveler by now for certain.

"Reaver, what good will it do you to go on like this? Boss has abandoned you and left you here to die alone. He said he's going to destroy the whole world, don't you care? Join us, please? We don't have to be friends, but we do not need to be enemies anymore. At least help us stop him for your own sake." Traveler knew this would be a hard sell. Convincing this guy to come with them might be a horrible mistake anyway. It was a dangerous gamble. This thing was relentless.

"Help yourself, moron. Idiot filly. Useless weaklings deserve no quarter. None whatsoever." Reaver retorted, laying there clutching at himself. Traveler must have inflicted tremendously serious damage to him during their fight.

"I'm useless? Come on, that is clearly Boss talking. What do you really think? Make a choice yourself for a change!" Traveler was dancing about the large room avoiding the somehow animate corpse of both her parents. She was crying inside her armor. Seeing them like this hurt so incredibly badly, in a way that was unbearable.

"How dare you!? You ignorant peasant." He basically growled angrily at her words. Peasant? Why was he so insulting?

"You attacked us all first, remember? We have only defended ourselves. For the longest time I thought I wanted to kill you for it, I really did, but I don't care about that anymore. We need to stop Boss or nothing else will matter for ALL of us anyway. I need your help. Help us." Traveler hoped she was getting through to him as she deflected a blow from the thing. Internally she was still in a panic at the sight of him and them. Reavers sightless gaze turned towards her. He'd gone silent for some reason. Why was the world like this? Everything hurt so much more badly than she ever imagined before.

"Help you? YOU? Never, you worthless piece of garbage. Shut your muzzle and die!" Reaver groaned. He really must be seriously hurt.

Traveler was standing too close against a wall and moved just as the thing rushed forward. As she jumped out of the way it crashed right through into another room, sending dust and debris everywhere. It seemed no more than a wild animal anymore. The brute sluggishly turned back towards her and continued its assault. It was clear to her now, it would never stop going until she was dead.

"Reaver, please.. I'm begging you. Stop this. Your father won't be coming back and I know your mother is dead. You don't have anyone, just like I didn't. I know what it is like to have no one at all, you don't want to be in that place. Don't be all alone like I was. There is no need for you to be in that kind of pain." This was really a roll of the dice.

Dodging this maniacal thing over and over was tiring. Just looking at it hurt so much. Trying to convince Reaver to help her was all she could think to do. He would easily be able to stop this. Reaver was very inexpressive, was she getting through to him at all? There was no way to tell. Desperate for a way out of this, she found herself almost blubbering.

"Reaver, please help us. I never even wanted to fight you at all, don't you understand that? Please come with us." He was not answering. What was he doing? Laying there in a heap in pain was not something she ever wanted to inflict on anyone. Not for real.

"Grr..I..Fine, you mooncalf! On one condition. Prove yourself, kill that mess. Now." He said. That voice of his. Chilling. Mooncalf?

"What? I can't do that. They're..they're mom and dad." Traveler couldn't believe what he was saying as tears flowed.

"No they aren't you moronic imbecile. I cannot understand how somepony so stupid ever beat me at anything. Pathetic." Reaver was so creepy, aggravating and insulting at the same time. He was so angering and miserable to listen to.

"I can't I cant.." Traveler moaned weakly, the terrible conglomeration of her mother and father was trying to destroy her. Why could she not take an action other than to avoid? It was so hard seeing them like this. It hissed something out.

"K..iill...ussss..s..weeeetheaarrttttt." Some part of them was aware and listening this whole time even as they attacked her? No!

Traveler did not notice until this moment, the opposing eyes of the thing were filled with tears streaming down.

"This can't be happening. I can't do this!" Traveler jumped away again as they swung. For some reason, they could not stop. Reaver laughed loudly, bellowing. What was he doing? Would he help or not? This was the hardest thing ever to take.

"You really are weak aren't you? Do it, you miserable nitwit of a foal or just give up and die already." Reaver said coldly. Why was he so awful and mean about everything? The horrendous beastly thing that was formerly her parents continued their attempts to mangle her. Traveler's heart was pounding so hard it hurt, she was shaking. This was impossible and hurt.

"Ppaainnnnn!" The thing roared out. At this rate Traveler really would be killed. She couldn't stand it anymore as something in herself finally broke loose. A horrible intense sadness mixed with incredible anger rose inside.

"Mommy...daddy..I'm sorry!.. I love you so so much.. Goodbye." She unloaded her armors entire 9mm clip into the thing and it stumbled about a moment, blood dripping all over from the holes, then flopped on the floor with a heavy dull thud, it's combined eyes slowly glazing over. She could just make out the last thing it said as it wheezed heavily.

"Oouuurrr..goood...gggirrrrlllll...." It's spliced together head rolled to the side and it lay twitching disturbingly all over.

It finally lay still. Traveler raised her head towards the ceiling and screamed at the top of her lungs. Beginning to sob wildly and yelling incoherently for a lengthy moment. She was so sad and heartbroken and angry all at once.

"You monsters. Sick vile monsters. You're all monsters! Boss, I'm going to find you and break every single bone in your body then tear your heart out and make you watch me eat it then gouge out your eyes while I tear your head off and use it to decorate my house so I can smash your skull in repeatedly every single day for the rest of my life!" Traveler cried, babbling and just standing there screaming at anything. Somehow even Reaver without any eyes managed to look taken aback by this wild outburst, almost cringeing.

A few moments of hysterical blathering later, slowly, she walked over to the panel and informed the others to move well away from it. Still crying she turned and began bucking the panel in true and earnest anger, using it as a means to vent further frustration. After a lengthy time smashing it like this over and over it actually began to show signs of cracking. For a full ten minutes she just kept doing this using the suits full power. The others were about to tell her to stop when instead of actually breaking it gave way from the very frame and fell loose upon the floor with a huge echoing smashing sound, then began to knit itself back together once more. Perhaps this loose panel could be useful in some fashion, but she did not know how currently.

It was hard to think. Traveler felt horribly ill, like some dark sickness had taken hold of her and she just stood there in her suit like a statue after all this. Not even the old griffon could think of anything good to say at this moment. Something dire and of such painful depth just happened they all stood agape in silence with her. Reaver remained silent as well, perhaps even given over to some modicum of real fear instilled by the raving armored mare. Did she actually manage to frighten him? Perhaps the multiple beatdowns she inflicted on him inadvertently or directly actually affected him on some level. At any rate, he somehow felt less dangerous now. Having somepony as durable and oddly powerful as him would surely prove useful if he could come to be trusted.

Gunnar at last broke the silence when Traveler finally quieted down fully from her hysterics. Tanner stood agape.

"Are you really sure about this? That pony over there, if he even is a real pony..is trouble with a capital T. Do you really want him tagging along?" He looked over to Reaver who was still laying there in obvious pain, but he already seemed to be recovering very slightly. That guy was a fright and a half to all of them. Traveler walked over to Reaver boldly and offered an armored hoof to help him up. The others looked on in serious concern. He hesitated at this friendly offer, surprised.

"Good fight. Can you walk or do we need to carry you?" She said, holdering her hoof out. He looked so hesitant to take it.

Those empty eye sockets were always disconcerting, even more so up this close. Would he really help them? In very obvious pain he reluctantly reached up and accepted her assistance at last. It was a start at least. Maybe, just maybe.

"I don't need your assistance or anything. I will however need some time to heal." His voice was so strange, carrying a great deal of weight behind it. Creepy, authoritative. Not in the same way as Boss, but still there. Something about him felt sad in its own way, but she couldn't put her hoof on it. His voice quivered a little. Was he really actually scared of her?

"Just don't pull any funny business. We will have our ey..uh..will be watchi..keeping you in our si...just don't, alright?" She stumbled over her words.

"Whatever. You idiotic weaklings obviously stand no chance without me. Stop Boss on your own? Don't make me laugh." Though he was correct, that was yet another insult. What was his problem anyway? He was the one that got abandoned by his own father only moments ago.

"Oh would you cut that out? Neither do you, so I would appreciate it if you dropped all the condescension." Tisket said. His sister appeared shocked as she looked over to her brother.

"What?" He said with a strange looking expression.

"Did you just..where did you..ya know what, nevermind." Tasket was quite puzzled in appearance for some reason.

Reaver would not be in any real condition to travel for quite some time. That was blatantly obvious. There were things to take care of at the moment anyway. This had all been such a painful physical and emotionally damaging time.

"Should we..go after your friends?" Gunnar asked Traveler.

"My..friends? I only knew one of them, but no. If anypony can take of themself it's..him. I..I think I need a little bit alone now if you don't mind. All of you clear out of the room, please." She turned her attention to the remains of her parents.

"You heard the fine lady, everyone out." Fine lady? Gunnar watched each of them exit the room, especially Reaver as he limped.

He was possibly in even worse condition than he was letting on, steadying himself against the wall as he walked out. The heavy griffon bravely offered to help him but was rebuffed again. Oh well. He turned his head towards Traveler for a few seconds, observing her looking down at the sad remnants. He walked out of the room and joined the rest.

"Alright you three, and our new pal over there. We are probably going to be here for a few days at least. Traveler is in no shape to go rushing off through the wastes either. I can see it even with that armor of hers. So let's just make the best of things, okay?" He stared at Reaver in particular. Tanner fidgeted off to the side apprehensively.

"I know you're looking at me ya dumb turkey." Turkey? Reaver stated it in that cold voice. He didn't even turn his head.

"You are a real piece of work. I don't know why you are still trying to get under our skin, but listen up. I do not care at all. I don't know what she's thinking, but I trust Traveler with my life by now. If she thinks bringing you along is a good idea then fine. Now let this sink in, even if it's only temporary we happen to be on the same side for the moment but you will follow our orders. Chew on that and swallow it hard." Gunnar walked over to the two siblings after his little retort there. Reaver was difficult to read, and looked ticked by that scolding. He went to say something but Tasket interrupted.

"Reaver, will you need anything? Can we do something to make you more comfortable?" She questioned nicely. He seemed stunned by this.

"I..no. Worthless." The anger was definitely drained out of his voice and whatever he was going to say by her offer. His expression was one of apparent puzzlement now. He moved off and found a place to rest somewhat away from them and lay down on the hard flooring. That didn't look very comfortable at all, but he lay weirdly motionless. Creepy once more.

"Alright, we need to discuss things. Your mission has just changed. The one and only thing that matters is preventing Boss from carrying out whatever he is trying to achieve. Absolutely nothing else. Got it?" Gunnar was very worried.

"Are you sure? What about your thing? We've come such a long way already.." Tasket was watching Reaver from afar.

"Yeah, we went through all that and now we're supposed to go chasing somepony else? None of this was in the job description and besides, can that loopy pony monster really destroy the whole world? Sounds like complete nonsense to me." Tisket did not really believe he could. It did sound utterly beyond possibility to all of them.

"You honestly think we should take that chance? You both saw what he's done. There is no reason to take that kind of risk. If there is the slightest possibility he can do it, we must stop him. It can't be allowed. I don't want what little is left in the world to be taken away from anyone else, do you?" Gunnar's voice cracked a little and he choked up a bit. That was quite odd for him. Whoa.

"I guess you're right there big fella. I don't want that either, but he was awfully powerful. Is there really any chance we can stand up to him?" They all felt the kind of force Boss projected at distance. He was something altogether violent and supremely dangerous, that much was abundantly clear. Boss was the sort of mystery no one wanted to try and solve.

"It doesn't make a difference. Someone has to keep him from doing it, and for the moment we're the only ones that know what he's up to. No one else. Anyway, you two keep close watch over that..guy over there, and be nice." Gunnar told them both. This had been a very miserable day for everyone. Tasket was still a bit sore from the shotgun incident earlier.

"Be nice? Are you joking? You were just raging on him harder than an explosion a few minutes ago." Tisket motioned towards the creepy unmoving pony over there, was he even breathing? His presence felt so weird.

"Because he needed to know in no uncertain terms that he has no authority with us unless he earns it and that we will not put up with anything unwanted from him. Now we need to try and get him to trust us as well. I don't like this at all, but Traveler started this with him and we need to see it through. Just be really careful around him. Don't let him get away with anything we don't like. Now, I'm going to go get the cart, Boss is not going to come back here." Gunnar turned to walk off.

"Gunnar wait, how do you know that?" Tanner was surprised he had so much confidence about it. He flicked his tail.

"It's what I would do." He said and left the room. Tisket and Tasket both blinked.

"I guess that makes sense. We know where this place is now, and he probably got whatever he wanted here already anyway." Tasket scratched her head and sighed. Why was life so bad in the world? What brought it to this?

"That blast hurt pretty bad, I just gotta rest some. Tiskey, can ya take care of things for a while? Please?" She did hurt a lot.

"Yeah yeah. I don't think tall dark and horrible over there is gonna pull anything for a long while." Tisket agreed.

"I'll stay with ya. No way I can rest right now anyway." Tanner was probably the most fearful around Reaver. He'd not been forced to spend any time around him at all like the rest and was most uncomfortable.

"How do you stay so calm around..him?" Tanner asked Tisket.

"We were dragged along behind him for a long time, you get used to it a bit. That feeling still gives me a chill though." Tisket explained.

"Traveler's ideas always seem so strange, but they always work out somehow. I'm not so sure about this one.." Tanner voiced his extreme concern about this idea. Bringing that pony with them, out of almost any other was surely asking for bad things to happen.

"She hasn't got anypony killed yet. She's an amazing fighter, that's good enough for me." Tisket was awfully accepting of this situation now.

"Well I don't like it, he's tried to kill her over and over. I don't know how she can do this." Tanner took a deep breath.

"What's to like? At least it's exciting." Tisket was highly amused by the expression that elicited from Tanner.

"Exciting is not the word I would use to describe all of this." Tanner grumbled. Tisket pointed at his gun. Huh?

"What?" Tanner was confused.

"That pistol of your looks like it's about to fall apart, want me to fix it up some?" Tisket offered. Tanner looked back and down at the rickety thing in the old flank holster which held it. It really did look terrible.

"Uh sure, thanks." Tanner knew this pony was good with guns which is the only reason he let him do it.

With great intense interest he watched as Tisket tore down the pistol, kind of fearful of him breaking it but he expertly used a piece of cloth and some makeshift metal tools he kept to slowly and surely clean the old pistol workings. It took over a full hour to clean it as much as could be.

"Whoa, this thing has never looked or felt so good. I can't believe it." Tanner was in awe of the amazing job that was done on it. He tested the action with the bit-catch. It was so much smoother.

"Where did you learn to do that?" Tanner was quite curious about it.

"My..father taught me when we were pretty young. He told us he taught himself how to do it and ruined way more than a few junk guns until he figured it all out, wasted a whole lot of caps on them but it was worth it. I barely remember him, but I remember him teaching me this." That sounded sad but tisket was grinning.

"You sound like you love guns or something." Tanner said and Tisket smiled wide. That was almost creepy.

"Er, you think Traveler is alright in there? It's been a while." Tanner was growing increasingly worried for her.

"I can't imagine fighting your own parents. We should just give her time." Tisket was right of course.

Back in the large and now very shattered room Traveler was quietly moaning and crying over the monster that was made of her beloved parents. So shook up was she that she hadn't even bothered to get out of her armor suit.

"Wrong. Everything is wrong. How could he do this? No one is ever supposed to do this.." This was something so horrible, so incorrect and so disgusting she was absolutely shaking in anger, loathing, sadness and other indescribable feelings brought forth by what happened here. Boss was deplorable, a true monster if there ever was such a thing.

"Mom. Dad.. No one. No one should ever have done this. No one, not ever. It is..unforgivable." Traveler hurt inside so badly.

Seeing those she loved completely mangled and twisted into some kind of grotesque picture of themselves was a torture unheard of. Tears fell like a stream made of misery. She sat, looking over their broken halves sewn and fused together. She killed them. She killed them.. her head drooped for many long horrible moments. The shock of it all was perhaps too much as that searing rain kept falling from her eyes yet again. This was unfair. What did she ever do to be forced to endure this!? Traveler panted and her eyes clouded with fuzzing tears. Why hadn't she died with them so long ago? Not fair! It would have been so much easier. Thoughts drifting over everything, she thought she heard her father's voice.

"Shh, you did good sweetheart." Traveler's head snapped upwards. What? What was that? She looked around apprehensively. Nothing was different. That jolted her out of her misery for a moment. Moonlight's systems monitors indicated her heart rate spiked dangerously for a moment during whatever that was. Must be wild imagination.

"Wha? I must be losing my mind. Ugh. I will..have my..friends help me bury you a bit later. I have real friends now, mom, dad. I did it, I really got some. I did. Mom, we will try to stop Boss. I can't promise anything more.. just to try. Neither of you deserved this. You can rest now." Traveler sighed deeply. They really didn't. Her parents were good ponies in a world seemingly half-filled with bad ones.

"It's okay now." Her mother's voice ran through her head and she backpedaled rapidly at the sound.

"Aah!?" Traveler startled. Nothing was there and no sounds, just the destroyed room and the half-bodies.

"What's going on? I really am losing it. Calm down and get it together. Rest. Yes, go rest." She said to herself, taking a deep breath. It must be shock, she thought to herself. Just too much insanity going on around her. That had to be it. The suit systems once again showed her heart rate spiked dangerously for a couple seconds and the suits magic apparatus was engaged both times. What was up with that? She wasn't trying to use it. Best just calm down. Just another oddity in a string.

The suit friendly tags were all blue, but lining up where Reaver lay the tag slightly seemed to flicker red and back again to friendly blue. What did that mean? Traveler even by this time did not have the best understanding of her armor and its capabilities despite what Magnificent taught her about power armor. It was not really a hostile indicator, it would have to do. Walking into the room, she glanced over at Reaver for only a second and continued on.

"Tisket. Is your sister okay? I saw that blast knock her over." Traveler asked. He nodded.

"Yeah, she's fine. I think Tasket is just more in shock she made a mistake like that than hurt. Haha." Tisket looked rather amused.

"Ya know..you should treat her with more respect. She doesn't want you to get hurt." Traveler said dully and walked past him towards the opposite door of the room. What was that about?

"Hey wait, what did you mean by that, where are you going?" Tisket quickly asked of her. She looked over her shoulder.

"Not far. I just..need some space for a while." Traveler left and he rubbed his chin. Tanner went to follow.

"Sure great everyone, leave me to watch over this guy all by myself. Not that I think he's going anywhere soon. Come back here, Tanner." Tisket sighed, deciding to clean his sniper rifle. He did take good care of his stuff. Tanner stopped.

Reaver just lay there. What a creep. His presence was eerie feeling, like some cold dead thing.

"Well, I'm not bored anyway at least." Tisket said to Tanner. Some hours later, Traveler returned to find the two siblings and Gunnar keeping an eye on Reaver. Traveler's eyes were red, obviously from crying for a good long time.

"We need to bury my parents. They deserve a proper resting place. I was thinking out to the west side of the library. It's not home, but it's kinda pretty there." Traveler looked down forlornly. To her surprise she found her friends surrounding her. Huh? They all reached in and hugged her warmly. She sobbed by this surprising display of kindness.

"Guys, you don't have to..do that for me.." She sniffled. They all held her for a long moment before turning their attention the more grim task before them. It wasn't difficult to make a coffin. There was plenty of wood to be had from the old building. It was something undertaken slowly and with great respect for the two fallen. This was the second time they'd had to bury someone on this trek through the wastes and ruins of the land and wilds. Finally, they finished digging and prepared to cover the grave. Traveler stepped out of her armor. It was safe enough for now. This was a wholly dead place.

"I don't really know what you're supposed to do when you..do this." Traveler said to no one in particular.

"I've done it too many times, but not like this." The big griffon patted her on the back.

"Whatever you think is right, Traveler." Tasket said. They were all saddened by these events despite not knowing her parents. Tanner looked on grimly. He'd barely known his own parents before they died so this hurt a lot to see.

"None of you knew them, but I think my mom and dad would have really liked all of you. I'm sure of it. Dad would have enjoyed your company, Gunnar. And, mom would have just loved you two." Traveler looked around at the siblings.

"I wish they could have met you all. Mom, dad, these are my friends. I like them very much. I hope you like them too." She said as they started to cover over the hole.

"What were your parents like? I can hardly remember ours." Tasket was very interested in this.

"My dad was..fun and strong and fast..he tried so hard to give me a good life, they both did. Mom was gentle and skilled too. We were just ponies trying to grow food, and my dad just wanted to make the world a better place to be..it was his dream and I want to help make it happen." Traveler thought of her good memories at the old farmhouse.

"They sound like good strong-willed ponies, just like you. Can't imagine you being a farmer though." Gunnar said. Was he laughing about that? Just like them? Was that really true? Was she so much like her parents? She'd never thought about it before really.

"I'm very sorry this happened to them, Traveler. You did what you had to do, so don't worry about it alright?" Gunnar really was a nice guy himself once you got past that rough exterior, Traveler thought. It would definitely take a long while to get over this kind of pain. It was deeply incorrect and hurtful that such a thing was ever done to anypony at all, let alone her own parents.

"Have you ever heard of anything like this? What happened to them?" She asked the group. They all shook their heads.

"I've seen terrible things before..but never like this." The old griff dropped his head. He was rather disturbed too. They all were.

"To the end of achieving your fathers dream, we still need to search this place from top to bottom. If you still intend on it." He pointed inside and said. Traveler nodded a few times.

"I guess we don't have anything better to do for the moment anyway. Eyeless in there isn't going anywhere for a good bit I'd say." Tasket looked a whole lot better than earlier. Her wounds were superficial at most. The impact of the blast merely knocked her over hard. Somehow, they'd all survived yet again, just barely. If Boss stayed and fought, Traveler was certain they would all have been tossed aside and slaughtered where they stood.

The next few days they each took turns watching over their new and potentially highly dangerous companion while the others continued looking for the book Traveler had come so far for already. The strange pony barely seemed to need food or water and remained mostly still. That was concerning, but he did seem to be healing. Many of the books in the ancient library were destroyed by age, time, wear and exposure. Much of the place was still intact, making the chances of finding it decent if it was really here. So many books were in tatters, but some were in great condition. So many stories, anecdotes, histories. None of which any of them ever heard before. The room Boss escaped through was just a shambles.

A few books caught the eye, such as one on potion-making. Another about bullets and an oddly thick book titled 'Of Mice & Ponies'. There was so much to go through they could only glance over most unless it appeared of use or extra interest. They were all beginning to think the book Traveler sought was not here. This was a slow time, but it was necessary after all that happened here. Each day Traveler went to her parents grave and sat for a while, speaking her mind aloud. At least this time, she actually got to say goodbye to them. In a way this almost felt better. It was still a traumatic and horrid thing which was done to them both. She'd noticed, they seemed less tall than before. She really was more grown up now.

Each day they would take turns looking through the many books for anything related to what Traveler had come seeking. It was either destroyed in the open sections of the building, or simply was not here to be found. On the fourth day in the morning Reaver suddenly raised his head and stood shakily, making all of them startle. A close watch was kept on him afterwards, but he did little more than that. After more time spent searching, they all met her at the grave.

"Im sorry, Traveler. I don't think what you want is here. We have looked everywhere and found a few books and stuff to take that might be of real value to someone, but.." Tasket was right. There was nothing more for them here.

They'd also spent some time trying to patch up the now rickety cart of hers. It would last longer with these repairs, but was still not in the greatest shape. Traveler, once more in her armor turned to the grave one last time. It was very unlikely she would ever make the long trip here again. It was just much too far through difficult and dangerous territory.

"Dad, mom, It's time for me to go now.. I don't want to go and I can't visit you here, but you are always in my heart. I know this is so. Farewell." Turning to the group she noted Reaver was sighing. That was a little weird seeming from him.

"Are you alright to walk now?" She did wonder if he really was, he still looked very hurt and bruised.

"Of course I am." That cold nearly lifeless voice of his was offputting in the extreme, but she tried to ignore it.

"Okay. We have a couple of problems. Down Range and that other pony haven't come back, and we don't know where they went or Boss was going either. Would you happen to have any idea where he headed, Reaver?" She wondered if he would even be able to answer such a question. If he did, would it really be the truth? He begrudgingly answered.

"I only know some places he might go. If he's there or not is your problem." Reavers answer was cold as ever. It was better than nothing. Each felt some palpable danger with this pony tagging along, was it really worth the effort?

"It's better than nothing at all." Traveler noticed her armor's mapping system marking each location he gave. Most of them were very far away. At least one of which was over a thousand miles distant. How did he get around so quickly?

"Great. Reaver, which one do you think he would go to first?" As she asked he sighed heavily for whatever reason.

"I wouldn't know. His plans were never fully made known to me. From here, I think he would go to one of the hidden stables in Applewood. Happy now?" Reaver's cold voice was so repelling to hear. Was that a hint of sarcasm or something?

"That is the closest place he would go!? According to our map it's hundreds of miles west of here!" Tasket was annoyed.

"You wanted to know so badly. That is what I have to say. So useless." Reaver really did sound sarcastic somehow.

"Whatever, if that is so he has over half a weeks head start on us. How does he get from place to place so fast?" Traveler said aloud, more just wondering. He seemed to move about with truly unnatural speed as well.

"He only told me there were secret ways. Since you are all just so eager to go die, you should get moving." Reaver was blunt and angering already. No matter how fast, this was going to feel like a very long trip with him present. They set out towards the western reaches of Equestria. Six hundred miles was an awfully long way to go further.

"Fine, whatever. We have to keep up a decent pace if we hope to catch them. I know you don't want to be asked these things, but will you really be able to keep up Reaver? I don't want you to hurt yourself." They were all thinking it. The icy sound of his voice was almost painful.

"Ugh. I..I'll be fine." With that he turned and started walking westward. The others turned to Traveler and Gunnar quietly whispered something.

"We could always ditch him out there somewhere now that we have locations you know." Traveler was shocked by his words. Tanner leaned in and agreed. It was not something she wanted to do. Her reply was earnest.

"No. Not unless it has to be done. We must try. I feel like there's something different about him now, and I want to give him a chance first alright?" She really wanted him to turn to good. Not only would it be a type of victory, but something about him felt really sad in some other way she couldn't explain. She knew this was a serious risk, but had to do it.

"Up to you, but he is really dangerous. You know that." Tisket said as they all began walking. Letting Reaver go on ahead was a good idea to them all anyway. It would be easier to keep tabs on him up in front. The temporary break in constant walking had done them all some good, but also dug into their food supplies somewhat.

They were still decently well off with water. Traveler decided to try and strike up a more normal conversation with Reaver if she could, catching up to walk alongside him.

"Hey..I'm sorry about your father.." She hoped this would help.

"Why, what do you care?" So cold as always. He was still limping, but quick and did not seem in as much pain now. Was this an act to look tough?

"I know him abandoning you had to be hurtful, he's your dad.." She hoped she wasn't approaching this the wrong way.

He was by no means a very talkative pony. His speech until now was almost always aimed to hurt, insult or otherwise mislead, aggravate and confuse. It also held some kind of power to bring one towards anger. Not nearly as much as Boss. Just hearing him was enough to build some sort of rising anger inside immediately. This was lesser by a great degree.

"Boss doesn't care about anything except getting what he wants. He means nothing to me either. Idiot." It was an answer of some kind, but it was devoid of real feeling. She could tell, but she might have just caught him. Gotcha.

"So you do care." Traveler was being very cautious in her approach to this, but needed to push a bit.

"What?" He genuinely sounded surprised by her words for once and actually glanced her way slightly. Yes, this was going to work if she could just say the right thing. Just the right push was all he needed, she was sure of it.

"Your father has hurt you very badly, anypony can see that. Tell me about him, what is he really like?" Traveler was keeping a close eye on him as they walked. He almost seemed uncomfortable now. That was kind of funny.

"L..leave me alone. You know nothing about us, stupid girl." Girl? He was so intent on keeping distance between them he was actually slipping up a bit in what he was saying. If she could just make him crack and open up to her fully. So close.

Maybe he was not so difficult to understand after all.

"I'd like to know more about you. Boss told us he really loved your mother. Will you tell me about her?" There had to be a good opening here somewhere, a way to get him really talking. Traveler was beginning to see this as another kind of fight. A verbal battle with blows and counterblows to contend with instead of bullets.

"She..it's none of your business." Darnit, almost. Reaver didn't miss a pace as they walked on. The terrain here was mostly open and sandy, perhaps once it held something else. There were scattered pieces of ancient railway about.

So much of the old world was buried by time and the elements. Might they be treading right over something that was once grand and wondrous at one time?

"I'll tell you about mine. I loved them very much. They worked themselves so hard just for me. Both of them would tell me stories, and sing me to sleep and play games with me when I'm certain there was better things for them to do." Maybe this tack would work better.

"So did mine..once." Reaver said that so quietly Traveler was unsure she even heard it correctly.

"What was that?" If that was really what he said maybe this was working.

"Nevermind." Oh come on. Once more he was just flatly cold. There must be something she could say to finally push him past the edge and get something more to work with. Was he actively resisting talking to her about anything? That was a little strange. Maybe it was just too soon, but the possibility was definitely there. She was sure of it. They walked in silence for some time. Traveler fell back to speak with Tanner.

"How you holding up?" She could see he was having a hard time being around this pony.

"I'm okay. How can you stand this feeling? He makes me feel jittery and nervous and like I want to reach out and stab somepony!" He huffed a bit. That strange pocketed pack of his always looked odd.

"It gets easier. It doesn't stop but it does ease up some. Try to relax. He is not going to hurt any of us." Tanner was a bit bemused by her assurance of this fact.

"Are you really really certain? This far away from him and I still feel unsafe." He really was finding it quite hard to deal with these sensations.

"I think he is..broken somehow. I can't get him to talk about it yet, but I feel it. He has no one else. We need to be better than the pony that threw him away." Traveler tried to make Tanner feel more at ease for a while. Her reassurance was helping. He was looking a bit better already. Good.

"You have some very strange ideas, Traveler." Tanner began to loosen up more. With them all rested so well they were able to make great time during the first day. That must have brought them closer to their quarry, provided they really went this way. A short time later those always dim last rays of the thing they still called day would go away so they made camp.

Traveler hoped making this kind of time might also impress Reaver perhaps. This region had plenty of old dead wood around. None of them were concerned about making a fire with this kind of strength along with them.

"We are good on water for a long while, but we really need somewhere to top up our food supplies and soon. I figure between us all we have maybe a week and a half left if we're careful." Tasket made sure the point was taken.

"I can help you with that." Reaver surprised them by interjecting. He could?

"Uh, how is that?" Gunnar probably couldn't believe he would be offering.

"We have hidden supply caches all over Equestria. There is one near here. I can lead you to it." Reaver just stood there.

"Yeah, you could also be leading us straight into a trap." Tanner quipped. Reaver didn't respond to that.

"Tanner, stop it. We would be very grateful if you took us there in the morning." Traveler wondered if that little outburst set them back any with him.

"Will you be joining us for dinner, Reaver?" Tisket generously offered a plate.

"I will not require food for a long time. I shall rest now." Despite the bravado, he did still look pained as he moved off.

"Wait, you don't have to sleep away from us." Traveler motioned to where they would be sleeping, but he ignored it and settled some ways away from the fire. Not out of sight, but far from everyone.

"I can't read that guy at all. He is the only pony I have ever met I can get no measure on." Gunnar was perturbed by this.

"Probably the lack of eyes. They tell a lot." Tasket suggested, she was likely right about that.

"Who wants first watch?" Tisket volunteered when Gunnar asked.

"I'm not that tired anyway. You know the rotation." He got ready to begin patrolling the area.

"I don't like this. Should we really follow his lead? He might be setting us up you know." Tanner did not trust this at all.

"He hasn't done anything since daddy took off on him. Unless he does something then I don't see any problem." Gunnar was fairly open-minded about this.

"He's right, it doesn't do us any good if we can't trust him. Let him prove himself. If he does anything against us I will finish him off personally." Traveler promised them all she would actually do it if that became necessary.

"There is something we've been avoiding and we really need to consider it. What exactly are we going to do if we actually catch up to Boss? Just him being there felt like death itself was reaching out and squeezing my heart." Tasket truly did not want to face that again.

"Yeah, what was up with that? It was much worse than him." Tisket pointed over at where Reaver lay. He shivered a little. Traveler shook her head.

"I don't think there is any actual plan we could come up with that wouldn't become useless in seconds." She made a good point.

"We will just have to improvise. Besides, I think we have the worlds best at that right in front of us." Gunnar was looking straight at Traveler who found herself blushing softly.

"I said I would do whatever it took to help you, but I do not trust any of this." Tanner finished his meal and lay down to rest.

"He has the right idea. Everyone, sleep. Now." Gunnar urged everyone to get some. For the first time in a long while Traveler slept very peacefully. No bad dreams, no terrible feelings. Just sweet rest.

Their little campfire was down to embers by the time her turn for watch rolled around. It wouldn't be too long before dawn. They would set out immediately after breakfast. This detour for supplies would take extra time they may not have, but it would be useless if they ran out of food before ever reaching their destination. The pace was not difficult to keep up. The terrain was flat and easy to traverse. Reaver lead them northwest a bit further than it felt comfortable to go into an ancient forest stand. Some of the trees here were actually still alive. Sickly looking as anything else would be, but they did exist. They looked little like those depicted in Traveler's old storybook at home. Home, would she ever see it again?

Red tags appeared in Traveler's display. She waved a hoof back for them all to stop.

"Multiple unfriendly things up ahead. I don't know what." She informed the group.

"Does this cache have guards, Reaver?" She wondered if he neglected to tell them something.

"No." Was the only thing he said about it.

"Here we go." Tanner said. He was left to guard their cart and possessions while the other investigated a sort of indent into the tree stand ahead.

"What the?" Traveler didn't like the feel of this. Something that looked vaguely like ponies but somehow moving wrong were suddenly pouring out of and from in and around the trees, coming straight at them. Now what?

"Fire!" Traveler sort of yelped. The pony things began dropping. They didn't seem to bleed whatsoever. Of all horrors, as they got closer it could be seen they had no faces at all. What was this? As Reaver was so far ahead of the group a multitude of the things piled atop him and looked like he was buried beneath them.

"Reaver!" Tasket had her shotgun Pepper up and blasting away any that managed to get too close. None of them could reach him right now.

After a few moments they heard a terrible yell as the pile of pony creatures on Reaver were heaved off of him and he began smashing their heads together, crumpling them inwards. He was taking some kind of sick delight in the battle, even smiling as he cracked skulls and getting spattered in guts as he tore several of them apart. There was enough firepower between them all that the things ranks were beginning to thin out already. Less and less were running out from between the old trees. The fight was still intense. These things had no intelligence at all, merely galloping straight at the closest of them in a group. This made it easy to pick them off, but was chewing through precious ammunition. Fortunately the end was in sight.

Seeing Reaver enjoying this so thoroughly was disturbing. He was even laughing joyfully as he broke one of the things backs then swung it into another so hard it cracked. Despite this, he'd been bashed around multiple times by now.

"You alright over there?" Tanner actually called out to him. He'd been far enough back not to be involved in the fight.

"This is fun!" Reaver happily yelled as he wrapped his forelegs around two of the things at once and crushed them to death with sheer strength before dropping the lifeless bodies. Tanner wondered if Reaver was actually insane. It was nearly over. There were veritable piles of corpses laying about. With a horrid crunch Reaver bucked one of their heads clean off.

It went sailing through the air and landed with a disgusting squishing sound. With that it was over quickly as it began. The whole group gave a sigh of relief. Reaver was coated in gore all over. Eww. What were these things?

"Is that it? Aww." He said. What? Aww? He wanted more of that? Hearing this coming from him was almost more disturbing than the things themselves. He really was excessively strong.

"Are you hurt?" Traveler asked since he definitely was not fully healed yet. He looked annoyed by her question.

"I..I'm fine. Can't you see that?" Why was he so aloof about any question asked of him?

"Who cares? We just used up more ammo than we've fired this entire trip so far. This is bad." Tasket brought them back to reality. It wasn't too good. All told there were at least fifty of the weird pony creatures with no faces. How did they live?

"She is correct, that was a whole lot. We really need to find a place to stock up now. I'm almost out of magipacks for my pistols and I don't think there's much left of anything else either." The old griffon looked winded.

"Heya, you okay?" Tisket saw how he was looking.

"Yeah, just wasn't expecting that. Those things really caught me off-guard." Gunnar prided himself on being prepared.

Tanner brought the cart up and quietly spoke to Traveler.

"He could have been hoping they would kill us you know." He was suggesting this was on purpose.

"I don't think so, they tried to attack him too didn't they?" Traveler looked around at the carnage and mess. Ick.

"I guess you're right. I still don't trust him." Tanner was perhaps right not to. There was no way to tell yet. The unexpected battle was not that difficult, it merely drained their resources greatly and gained them nothing.

"Through here." Reaver walked up a little path hidden in the trees to a decent sized old shack.

"Not much to look at is it?" Tisket walked around the place.

"It's clear, and I can see through the cracks. There's no one here." Tisket pulled on the door, it creaked loudly. It was good to hear there were no more surprises waiting for them. This change of direction had taken nearly the whole day. It was ramshackle, but large enough for them all to fit inside comfortably. They'd have to spend the night here. There were a few ancient metal boxes and even a small kitchen. Reaver opened a rusty fridge to reveal a multitude of cans. They did not look in good shape by any means. It would have to do.

"Is this stuff safe to eat?" Tisket sniffed at the cans and backed up sputtering. Bleck. The smell actually seeped right through the cans.

"It's safe enough. These cans are sealed." Gunnar said. Traveler looked them over. Her suit did not reveal them to be bad in any way, but not very high in nutritional value. At least it was food of some kind, anything was better than starving.

"Yes the food is safe. As long as we can eat it who cares what it smells like?" She said.

"Thank you, Reaver. This will keep us going a good while." Traveler thanked him. He almost had the slightest hint of embarrassment. Was that really what it was?

"We could use this as a place to retreat to, should keep it in mind. Might be able to fortify it some as well." Gunnar had a good suggestion there.

"Maybe..I hope it doesn't come to us having to run away at any point. That is not the idea. We need to stop Boss, whatever it takes." Traveler would not let him get away with destroying what was left of the world. She hadn't seen Down Ranges radio tag yet, but he must be ahead somewhere.


Now they play the most dangerous game of all.

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