• Published 3rd Nov 2013
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Midnight Melody - Caffeine Junkie



Octavia’s life is bound to change when suddenly strange events occur around her. Chosen by Pandora’s box she soon finds herself dealing with something she had never expected…

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-(19)- Black Ash

Author's Note:

In an attempt to bring the antagonists closer to the reader I decided to do something rather unusual. This chapter is written from the view of Black Ash (a vampire) instead of Octavia's. Of course this is merely a one time thing but I think it couldn't hurt to give my antagonists more presence while explaining and summing up some things that happened so far.

I hope you enjoy Ashy's busy day...

There was an old saying that time passed differently for everypony. Sometimes ponies claimed that they experienced seconds that dragged on for an eternity as well as years that passed in a heartbeat. After living for a few centuries myself I slowly started to accept that those stories were indeed true. Decades passed and I saw a lot of ponies, influential ponies, come and go and to be honest I already forgot most of them. Time never showed favouritism; nobles and beggars alike had to face oblivion. Family, friends and sometimes even foes; those were the ponies who managed to earn their place in my memories. Oh those sweet, yet bitter memories…

Those moments spent with my beloved ones were rather short lived but I wouldn’t want to miss them for anything in the world. However, the painful gap in my heart grew wider with every tombstone I had to erect. After two centuries I finally realised that it wouldn’t get any easier no matter how long I lived. The cruel reality was that we immortals had to face loss and guilt for eternity. We all had to come to terms with our fate and while some of us tried to be strong for those around us, others turned cold or even mad when they embraced the truth about immortality. It didn’t matter whether we were gods, monsters, ponies or something entirely different for all of us were subject to loneliness. In the end our whole existence was defined by the bonds we shared with others. Even though some of them acted like shackles and restrictions most of them were based on friendship and love. Now, how would an immortal whose bonds were shattered or forcefully severed react to the world? The answer to that question probably changed depending on the pony but in the end we all would sacrifice everything to meet those again that we lost.

Sometimes when I closed my eyes I even saw it happening all over again…

The night-sky seemed as if it was lit on fire. The whole town was burning and in the midst of chaos there was a simple mare. She stood beneath a rain of blaze and cinders watching as the whole world around her collapsed. The air was hot and suffocating but she didn’t care any longer for she seemed to be completely enthralled by the glory of the moment. Everything she ever loved perished in front of her eyes but she wasn’t sad for she knew that she had lived a good life. Happiness and pain, trust and betrayal, love and hate, she had experienced them all. With a smile she inhaled the flames and embraced her fate and thus her life came to an end. If I had been just a little faster or if I called out to her just a little louder, maybe she would have tried to run away with me.

It had been the darkest day in my whole existence and yet 739 years later it still hurt to think about my sister’s final moment. Back then I didn’t know why she wore that happy expression when the flames devoured her but in time I learnt what it meant. My sister believed that she would be reunited with all her beloved ones in the afterlife. What a foolish sentiment. If she had tried to escape both of us could have made it out alive. Did she abandon me in favour of her colt-friend or did she simply think I had perished as well? I would never get an answer…

Well, in the end it didn’t matter why she gave up on life, I would have cried for her anyways. As I buried the remainders of her charred husk I finally realised that life was neither fair nor forgiving. It was an age of superstition and fear so it wasn’t unlikely to look for scapegoats if things couldn’t be explained. As the sole survivor of the inferno that had reduced my hometown to ashes I soon became known as the wicked witch’s child. Back then, being accused of witchcraft came close to a death sentence.

According to my sister our mother was burnt on the stake for that particular reason. As years passed I learnt that she was nothing more than a simple herbalist who had tried to help ponies. At one point she probably couldn’t cure somepony and someone blamed her for her patient’s death. Even though I was too young to remember my mother I would always love her for what she did for us. Under torture she confessed that she had been a witch all along but even then she tried to save the life of her children. She told them that we were supposed to be sacrificed in order to summon a greater demon from the pits of tartaros. Furthermore she told them that the ritual required two untainted souls and therefore she had to keep us pure and uncorrupted. That was it…the final gift of our mother…

However, after the inferno ponies of the surrounding villages started to believe that my mother had lied to them and began to look for me. Even though Celestia had prohibited witch hunts ponies still silently participated in them. It didn’t even take them a whole week to find and imprison me, the witch’s spawn.

I was but a little filly back then and nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. They pierced my legs with hot iron nails, they crushed my hooves multiple times, they put me on the rack and they covered me in hot ashes. The pain was unbearable and for a long time there was nothing I could do but endure it. They didn’t care how much I cried or fainted under their torture my pleas never reached them.

After three days of endless agony I wished for nothing more than that Celestia would banish those evil ponies to the sun. Of course she never came. That moment I finally realised that there was no justice. Celestia was no goddess and there was no way that something like a god could possibly exist if he watched innocent fillys being tortured without intervening.

On the fifth day I suddenly found myself in the tower’s cell. They had given up on the torture because I wasn’t able to stand the pain anymore and just fainted. I wasn’t sure if I had told them anything and to be honest I didn’t even care at that point. Burning me at the stake was probably far more enjoyable than another day of torture. My whole body was aching and it took me some time to find enough willpower to open my eyes. As soon as I opened them I realised that I wasn’t alone in my cell. There was a colt with a white coat and ice blue mane sitting next to the barred window. He didn’t look like a prisoner and at first I thought he was just a hallucination but after a few moments he addressed me directly.

“So…thou art Black Ash?”

“Moonshine…” I corrected him with every ounce of strength I could muster.

“Ah…indeed. We forgot that thy other name was given to thee by your persecutors.”

The colt walked up to me and looked at me with a strange expression. Before he addressed me again he let out a deep sigh, came closer and lent me his ear.

“Thy execution will be tomorrow, my dear. Hast thou any last wishes? We gladly listen to thy last words and pass them on to god.”

At that moment I couldn’t help but to chuckle. They sent me a cleric? They still wanted me to repent for something I never did?

“Tell thy god and his worshippers…that they…shall burn for eternity…in the pits of…tartaros.”

Then the cleric began to burst into laughter. Suddenly his voice became so cold and piercing that I thought he was a demon from tartaros sent to collect my soul.

“Oh my black little angel, it fills my heart with joy to see that their torture hath not broken thy spirit.

For a few moments there was nothing but silence. It took me some time to realise that the mood had completely changed. The thoughtful expression of the colt was gone and instead he looked at me with burning determination. He bowed his head and softly whispered some words into my ear…words that changed my life forever.

“Ash? Where are you?” a female voice called out to me.

I immediately snapped out of my thoughts. This wasn’t the time for foalish sentiments because according to Bliss the gears of fate began to move again. Every minute of every day for the last few centuries he tried to shape destiny in the most favourable path and right now the pieces finally fell into place. All his scheming, all his carefully laid out plans now depended on the decisions of one single mare. However, the decisions she was about to make were never truly hers…

“What is it…Glow?” I asked in a sweet voice.

“Your presence is requested…” the voice answered through the door.

“Tell the master that I’m still waiting for his delivery…”

“The request wasn’t from the master…it was a challenge from an acolyte…”

“Oh, so nopony told the foal?” I asked with a sad tone.

“Well, some did but he seemed convinced that the master just favours you for your looks.”

“So…his challenge was formal?”

“Yes, he just asked for the masters permission to challenge you.”

“How did the master react?”

“Oh, he seemed amused and told the acolyte to make it entertaining…”

I couldn’t help but giggle even though it made me sad to know that I’d soon have to kill yet another pony. Elusive Bliss was unlike any other colt I had ever met. While most immortals tried to hide their boredom for appearances sake he didn’t bother and showed it openly. It wasn’t how his followers expected him to act but at least it was far more authentic than a princess who supposedly cared for every puny bagatelle a noble could come up with.

As I walked through the door Subtle Glow was already waiting. Even though she was a rather timid mare she seemed very excited today. Well, she always wanted to see what exactly I was capable of, if I remembered correctly. However, unlike a certain acolyte who just proclaimed his own death she would never be foalish enough to challenge anypony who was far stronger than her. Well, I didn’t hoofpick her to be my assistant for her offensive potential anyways.

We walked down the stairs for a few minutes until we finally reached the lowest layer of the basement. It was a big hall that resembled an amphitheatre. It was lit by chandeliers and torches. The smell of blood and death were still hovering in the air even though there neither was an execution or some games in the last few decades. As I walked down the stone tribunes the crowd cheered. Well, crowd is a big word for around fifteen vampires who had taken a seat for this particular spectacular. The amphitheatre was built to impress the other clans on special occasions and offered seats for around 250 ponies.

My challenger was already waiting at the bottom of the arena. His red eyes were probably locked on me since I entered the basement but I wouldn’t know because all the time I was looking at the master’s balcony. There he was, sitting on his stone throne smiling. The three slightly smaller thrones to his left and to his right remained empty. Usually they were reserved for the keepers, important guests or those closest to the clan head.

When I reached the arena floor where my impatient challenger already walked in circles Elusive Bliss raised his hoof and began to yell.

“I greet you my children. I’m happy so much of you could make it on such a short notice. However the reason for our gathering is a rather sad one, for today one member of our family will leave us permanently.

The acolyte Blade Dancer, vampire of the seventh generation has told me that he doubts the capabilities of my second in command, Black Ash and therefore requests a fight to the death wagering his very essence.

As most of you know, Ash is a vampire of the second generation and therefore protected by the power of the bloodline. Now all of you bear witnesses as I, Elusive Bliss, keeper of our bloodline, order Blade Dancer, vampire of the fourth generation, to surpass the limitations of his blood and fight Black Ash on equal ground.”

I stood perfectly still in the middle of the arena while Blade Dancer already began to circle me. It was only when the master gave us the sign to begin that he conjured eight blades of light that moved around him acting like a shield. Well, he was not as foalish as I thought. I envisioned he’d immediately jump at me to be honest but he probably tried to get an idea of my power before attacking me. While he waited his wall of blades made him nearly untouchable. Not a bad strategy...

“So…little filly…I guess this will be the end for the silver eyed witch.” he said trying to taunt me.

“Oh please, drop the honorifics mr. acolyte…you make me blush…” I answered and gave him a wink.

The whole crowd began to laugh and Dancer let one of his blades rush in my direction where it was blocked by a simple kinetic blade I conjured in response. Oh, such a hothead, maybe if he had waited for another century he might have had a chance…

“Without the protection of the bloodline you are nothing more than a weak little filly…” he yelled at me.

I gave him a wide smile as clouds of black ash began to form in the midst of the arena. He tried to fend them of with his swords but in the end he had to realise that he couldn’t cut through my ash clouds and tried to attack me head on. Evading his attacks I danced around my clouds and tried to break his line of sight. However he managed to surprise me when he made it rain some blades in addition to those he used as a shield. The number of blades he could control was probably ranging from twelve to fourteen. Of course I avoided them but he also managed to graze me on my shoulder. An admirable feat if I you asked me.

“Well, not so cocky any more are we?” the colt yelled once again.

I couldn’t help but to laugh in response. While I laughed the clouds around me grew wider and soon the whole arena was covered in my ash clouds. They weren’t hot or suffocating, no they were something entirely else. While I was just walking towards my enemy he couldn’t do anything but whirl his blades around him and hit into thin air.

“Where are you? What strange kind of clouds are those? Face me little witch!”

At that moment I pulled back my clouds and let them float around us, letting the crowd in on what happened. My hoof was all bloody and looked at the colt with a disappointed expression.

“So…you managed to hit me…” I told him.

“Of course I did…” he started to reply but I immediately interrupted him.

“…but you didn’t even realise it. So there was really nothing more to those blades…”

“It was more than enough to hurt you!” he yelled arrogantly.

The clouds around us began to rise until they reached the ceiling. Nopony could see inside the ring any longer and I simply moved closer towards him and also began to conjure some blades of light.

“So it is true…you do use light blades just like me…but why bother with those ash clouds then?” he whispered more to himself than to me.

Then he attacked me with his blades. They pierced me, cut me and ripped my body apart. In the end he was standing above my lifeless body and smiled triumphantly only to find out that my body wasn’t real when he touched it. At the very same moment he was pierced by two kinetic blades. One went through his throat, silencing him and the other through his heart, paralysing him.

“I bother with them because they conceal the truth.” I softly whispered in his ears.

His eyes grew wide when he heard those words and for the first time I gave him a sincere smile.

“Yes…everything about me is a lie…even my name.”

With those words I cut off his head and took in his essence. It was a sad thing but it had to happen. It only took me a few seconds to take in all of his power and memories while his body rapidly aged. In the end nothing but dust and bones remained. Looking through his past I realised that if we had met in another life under other circumstances we possibly could have become friends.
As soon as the ash clouds dispersed the others saw that I had been victorious once more and the whole theatre erupted in applause. Bliss congratulated me formally in front of the audience and waited until everypony was gone before he signalled me to follow him. We walked a few minutes until we finally reached our destination, his private chambers.

He offered me a comfortable chair and a glass of wine before he took a seat opposing me. Bliss then gave me a gentle smile and let his azure eyes wander over my face before he began to speak
.
“Well Moonshine, how do you feel?”

“I’m okay I guess…” I answered quietly.

“Don’t lie to me…”

“Is that an order?” I said and raised an eyebrow.

“You know that I would never order you around, cute little angel of mine.” he said with a chucke before he carried on in a more serious tone. “I’m merely concerned about your wellbeing. I know that taking lives isn’t the easiest thing for you to do…”

“Well, I still don’t like it but thanks to your advice my victims they become fewer in numbers…”

“Is that so? Well, I’m happy that I could be of assistance…” he said and took a sip from his glass.

Around two hundred years ago we had a discussion on the very same topic. I wanted to keep casualties as low as possible and therefore asked Bliss what I could do to make others think twice about challenging me. In the end he told me that there were three ways to achieve that goal. The first one was to try to be loved by your underlings. While that would have been the way I preferred he also warned me that some ponies would simply think that I was showing weakness and need to be replaced. The second one was to strike fear in their hearts by committing atrocious acts and executing my enemies in the most terrible ways. However, Bliss knew that I wasn’t capable of such things and told me the third option would suit my needs best. While fear proved a great way to control the masses and love made them prone to manipulation the third option lay in between; it was respect.

“So tell me, what do you think about her?” Elusive Bliss interrupted my thoughts.

“I’m not so sure. I mean she looks pretty ordinary at first glance but…there is…something more about her.”

“So…you felt so too…hmmm go on…” he said while being a little lost in his thoughts.

“Well, the seed already took effect but her ability didn’t look very interesting at first glance.”

“What kind of ability did she develop?” Bliss asked now eagerly.

“Some kind of ice-based ability I think. However, it is hard to say because the ability is still in an early state.”

“Well, that is kind of disappointing but it doesn’t change much. So what else can you tell me?”

“The seed already took root in her head. The way she was moving was closer to one of us than to the mortals. Her inner predator also made her look down on those around getting her in some trouble. However, I wouldn’t mention that if it was just the usual reaction. Contrary to my expectations she didn’t react like a cornered predator but like one who was completely in control…”

“Now, that is indeed worrisome.” Bliss said with a thoughtful expression.

“You described her as rather emotional but the only thing I could see was a calculating mind, toying with her soon-to-be victims. If she had been seriously assaulted she would have definitely resorted to violence. Yet, thanks to an unforeseen event the situation could be resolved without fighting” I carried on.

“If what you say is true I have to adjust my plans a little…” Bliss said rather annoyed.

He sighed and signalled me to wait while he left his comfty chair and crossed the room looking for something within his vitrine. When he returned he put a crystal bowl filled with chocolates on the desk and winked at me.

Vampires didn’t need food other than blood to survive but we certainly could enjoy the taste of food. Even though within our kind there were different preferences both, me and Bliss, had quite the sweet tooth. Sadly most food was just insipid for vampires and only the most sweet, bitter, sour etc. flavours could be perceived by us. Those chocolates for example are thirty times sweeter than any other chocolates sold in Canterlot.

Not wanting to let Bliss’ generosity go to waste I helped myself and took a piece. He then proceeded to take one as well and started our conversation anew.

“So is there anything else I should know about her?”

“Well, she pretty much spent her evening in seclusion. Other than those colts who bothered her she was only talking to her DJ friend and…”

“… and whom?” Bliss asked now in confusion.

“That is the point. I can’t remember.”

“You can’t remember? Or you don’t want me to know?” Bliss asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I would certainly have mentioned it if I didn’t want you to know, right?” I said and rolled my eyes.

“So…you keep forgetting everything about that pony…than there is a way to find out.” Bliss said with glowing eyes.

“Repeat to me the following names and try to picture them in your head. As soon as you find yourself incapable to, tell me. Celestia, Luna, Twilight Sparkle, Discord, Thanatos…”

“Celestia, Luna, Twilight Sparkle, Discord, Thanatos…” I repeated.

“Well, that doesn’t seem to work. Can you tell me what they talked about? You still remember what your target said do you?” Bliss said and looked at me in anticipation.

“It was mainly some talk about relationships.”

“Relationships, seriously? Did she talk with a succubus?” Bliss said and chuckled.

“As if something ridiculous like that could be real…” I told him with a smile.

“You know that some ponies say the same thing about us, do you?”

“Blasphemy…we shall turn into bats and suck their sweet life juices.” I said playfully.

“…and that is what I love so much about your company; you always manage to raise my mood.”

We both chuckled for a few more moments before Bliss focused on the task at hoof again. I knew it probably wasn’t easy for him. He was permanently juggling dozens of plans inside his mind and even the slightest complication could force him change his plans all over again.

“So, if you wanted to pressure our pawn, how would you do it?” Bliss asked now rather serious.

“According to Cold Steels information she doesn’t really care about her family at all, so that is a dead end. However, according to the data there should be at least a chance of fifty percent that she would try to help her sister. I wouldn’t advise to do that though. Our best bet would certainly be to pressure her by using her DJ friend. Sadly that in itself is also nearly impossible. As one of the harbingers we aren’t allowed to touch her either…at least if we don’t want to start a war with the other keepers and the guardian.” I said reciting the facts.

“That mare sure puts up a worthy challenge.” Bliss said with a sour expression.

“So…what shall we do?”

“That is the question now…isn’t it? I’ve been hoping that Cold Steel’s research would be able to help me out…but no…that mare just has to have no one she holds dear other than that DJ who happens to be another harbinger on top of being…”

“Being what?” I asked in surprise.

“…particularly interesting for reasons that I don’t understand …yet…” he said gritting his teeth.

Then for a few terrible moments I sat there in silence watching as Bliss tried to wrap his mind around his problems. I knew the feeling of helplessness and it always pained me to see others experiencing as well, even more if they had always been kind to me.

“So how can I help you until you figure out how to get that Octavia where you want her?” I said and broke the uncomfortable silence.

“Well, if it wasn’t for Cold Steel’s data I probably would have sent you off to collect some more information on that Octavia’s family and friends but I doubt that he would have missed anything. I also looked through his notes about batponies and to be honest they proofed quite useful for my plans. You should send him my thanks. Oh and while you are at it I want you to write some invitations for a dinner party I am going to give soon.” he said while the fire in his eyes started to burn again.

“Anything else?” I asked still wondering about what he was up to this time.

“Yes, I also want you to get me the last report from Shadow Sleeper on Thanatos’ activities. I haven’t heard anything about his activities in the last few weeks but I’m very concerned that he could set his eyes on the second harbinger and interfere with my plans.” Bliss told me.

“Consider it done.” I told him.

“Oh and Ashy?” he said teasingly.

“Yes…”

“The next time when you enter my private chambers please don’t bring the skull of your last victim with you. Your ability to manipulate light in order to create illusions may be convenient but even if it looks perfect you still walk a little bit slower on three legs.” he said with a smirk.

I was happy that as a vampire I couldn’t blush anymore and closed the door behind me before I headed off for the main hall. As soon as I entered I delegated all the tasks Bliss had given to me. While I did that I was also informed that the the delivery for the master had finally arrived. Of course I immediatley sent an acolyte with the package to his quarters.

When everything was taken care of I finally went back into my chambers and placed the no longer invisible skull on my desk. Looking at the sole remainder of the poor pony whose life I had eradicated today I addressed him one final time.

“Hello again, my name is Moonshine…“