• Published 15th Mar 2014
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My Life As My Ironically Bad OC - Lord Of Dorkness



Yes, a LoHAV fic and yes, that is a black and red alicorn OC. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

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Chapter Two V3.2 - A Totally Normal Day For the Goddess of Darkness

It was a dark and stormy morning…

And the author wishes you to know he may stop anytime he wishes! He is not addicted to that cliché!

...Anyway, in the gloom of the overcast sky and between the pitter-patter of the rain, a sound split the air.

In the bed, a dark form stirred. Red, bloodshot eyes shot open; gleaming crimson like the fires of hell itself. Within moments, the dreadful, hate filled orbs had narrowed into slits, their razor-thin pupils locked onto the thing that dared disturb Death Darkness’ rest.

Faster than most ponies could gallop, let alone react, she surged forward. Death Darkness didn’t as much rise, as seemingly fall apart; her form dissolving of a wave of dark shadows that raced along the room towards her foe.

As the wave of dark stopped, it crested and fell over its dreaded enemy; falling on top like as if the void itself had been formed into a tsunami of doom.

As the thing fell, like a metaphor of something dreadful happening in a suitably horrid manner , it changed. All along the dark blob slits twisted and warped into new shapes.

Some turned to glowing slitted eyes, each one a lurid red like the freshly spilled blood of innocents. Ancient and terrible intelligence shone in those eyes, as well as a hate burning like the burnination of Trogdor himself!

Others, turned to warped limbs; spindly and wispy, and yet clearly possessing enough strength to rend near any flesh. Gryphon wings with their feathers replaced with razor-blades. Cruel hooves far sharper than such limbs had any right to be. Hands with long nails, twitching and clawing at the air itself…

As a spiked tentacle shot from the writhing mass, Death Darkness’s opened her many mouths. Within each razor lined maw a glimpse of Nothing boiled; as the dark beyond even the stars themselves was dwarfed in intensity by the Void made manifest. As the cruel limb wrapped around its prey, the dreadful thing Death Darkness had become in her fury hissed. The sound a note of pure dark made manifest that seemed to drain the color of all it passed...

Truly, had she not already eaten the poor things soul the last time this happened, Death Darkness’ phone would have rued its day of manufacture by now.

The tentacle wrapped hard around the receiver, the enchanted phone’s surface already scratched finish gaining new furrows.

Death Darkness opened her mouths wide. Then she opened her mouths inside her mouths, and her mouths inside her mouths inside her mouths, and her mouths inside her mouths inside her mouths, and her mouths inside her mouths inside her mouths inside her mouths…

Then she spoke, each and every one of her legion maws moving in perfect unison. The voice, if it could be called something so small and mundane as such, seemed to shake the nearby shadows. Not a mote of dust as much as twitched… but every shadow within a mile boiled and shook, as if they had been the real things they resembled... and struck with dragon fire.

“WHO DARES WAKE ME FROM MY SLUMBER?! BRIEF MORTAL, YOUR TRESPASS SHALL BE PUNISHED DEARLY! I SHALL FEAST ON YOUR SOUL UNTIL THE STARS THEMSELVES RUN COLD IF THIS SLIGHT IS WITHOUT CAUSE! NOT EVEN THE LIGHT ITSELF SHALL HEAR YOUR TERRIBLE LAMENT, AS MY TEETH GNAW ON YOUR VERY SPIRIT UNTIL ETERNITY ITSELF ENDS AND BEGINS ANEW! YOUR WAILS SHALL BE MY MUSIC, YOUR TEARS MY WINE, AND YOUR FLESH MY FEAST; ALL FOR THE BANQUET YOUR UNDYING TORMENT SHALL PROVIDE ME!”

The mass that had been a mare alicorn had no head to throw back, but the blob of corrupted dark surged upwards in a decent mockery of the gesture.

“SPEAK, AND KNOW YOUR DOOM OR SALVATION FROM ME REST UPON THOSE WORDS!”

On the other end of the line, the scratching of a hoof-file paused momentarily before resuming. “...Wow, tough night, Ruddy? Your being a worse drama-queen than usual, an’ that’s saying something…”

What eldritch matter that currently passed for a brain inside the swirling mass of darkness ground to a halt. “...Wut?”

The mare on the other end let out a sigh before mumbling in annoyance: “Flippin’ bat-ponies…”

A shade of black beyond mortal distinction started blooming on parts of the abomination as Death Darkness actually started waking up enough to realize how foolish she’d just been... “...Oh, sorry, PM. Got shot-down bad yesterday, and I frankly just want to sleep away my sorrows for a few hours.”

Private Message, for such was the secretary’s name in true on the nose pony fashion, let out a sympathetic ‘aww’ as she put her hoof-file down. “Sorry to hear that, Ruddy... but you’ve still got that book signing later today.” A few papers rustled as the secretary fiddled with something on her desk. “You up for it, or…?”

Death Darkness thought it over, as her form started condensing into what to most would pass for a mortal. All but two eyes and two bat-wings shrunk into the main mass, the others closing or fading respectfully as the pairs intended for current use shifted into their ‘proper places. All the shades of Dark beyond mortal keen faded and frayed, until a azure pelt seemed to melt forth from it.

The golden eyes finished settling in what quickly resembled a bat-pony’s skull, its form finalizing when the last open maw slid over the jaw and stuck there. Death Darkness absently used one of her gryphon claws to massage her chin to make sure her skin had covered her face completely this time, before the unneeded limb melted away.

<”Darn it,”> she muttered in Zebraven, just as much to hide what was being said as out of old habit, <”that twit Nightmare Moon gets a nicely PG-rated mist thingy for her shape-shifting, while I get the Lovecraftian-light experience of melting into all the shadows ever cast? So not fair…”> Ruddy Dawn clicked her pointy teeth together, —happy that she didn’t need to banish any extra mouths this time— before using the tentacle swiftly becoming a hoof to adjust the receiver up to where her ears had moved. <”Hmm, wonder what Celestia and Cadance look like when they use their powers to shape-shift…?”>

“Still can’t speak Zebraven, dear…” PM chided lightly, totally and happily unaware with what she’d just moments ago she’d been conversing with. “And just how do you do that with your voice? Honestly, nearly made me ruin the upholstery on my cushion first time I heard it.”

Death Darkness, now almost fully in the guise of Ruddy Dawn, let out a dark chuckle before speaking in her ‘normal’ Zebraven accent. “Sorry, dear… but I’d need at least a first-born before I tell you that.”

PM rolled her eyes, letting out an irritated sigh while doing so. “Honestly, Ruddy… You actually want me to believe that how to make your voice really scary is an ‘ancient Zebraven secret?’”

Well, I did figure it out about nine-hundred years ago… That’s decently ancient by most standards.

Outwardly however, Ruddy Dawn just chuckled.

“Fine, fine…” PM’s voice lost its half-mocking edge, and instead turned sympathetic. “So, care to tell me what happened; one gal to another?”

Ruddy Dawn, —for some reason— didn’t think admitting to being the alicorn of darkness and deception would end well, and decided on a fib. “Got a chance to hit on the Element of Honesty, if you follow…” A forlorn sigh forced itself out of the mare, as PM let out a shocked little gasp. “...and the pretty girl barely seemed to notice. Guess she’s just straight, or was distracted, or something… but it still hurt, you know?”

“Hey, plenty of fish, right?” PM said in a kind voice. “No offence, but given how few bat-ponies still have dragged themselves out of hiding…” The mare let out a giggle that almost seemed to hang in the air. “Well, dear, I’m certain your somepony’s fetish!”

Ruddy giggled along for a bit. “Just for the record, though? I didn’t drag myself out of anything. I saw an opportunity in the ol’ country, and Ni-” Ruddy quickly corrected herself as PM let out a angry hum of warning. “And Luna had nothing to do with it.”

“You do know she’s cured, right?” The secretary said in a weary voice. “It really isn’t fair to call her… that, anymore.”

Ruddy just barely resisted gritting her teeth. When you have a mouth full of razor teeth? Yeah, not a good idea, no matter how cathartic it may be. “Nightmare Moon’s little temper tantrum nearly killed my homeland, my race and drove my coven from Equestria…” The bat-pony slammed a hoof down hard enough it left a dent in the hardwood floor. “But the bastardous twit didn’t even seek redemption herself! She was brainwashed into it!”

PM fidgeted on the other end of the line, clearly at a loss for words.

Ruddy ran a hoof through her mane with a sigh. “...Look… I like this country. It’s a nice and peaceful place, with lots of friendly inhabitants…”

“But…?”

The cyan bat-pony leaned her head with a groan. “...But I honestly wouldn’t care one iota if the two idiots on top were to go hang. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth.”

There was a long pause. Long enough that Ruddy would have suspected PM had hung up in indignation, had she not heard the other mare breathing. “...No offence,” the secretary in question finally said in a tart voice, “but is Empress Mganga really so much better?”

“Hey!” Ruddy exclaimed, with her fur and mane brisling, and her wings raised in challenge on pure instinct, “None of them might not be perfect, but at least the ancient magical abominations I owe fealty to has a body-count in the negative millions!”

“Well, none of mine consider manual labor until the bodies rot away a proper burial rite!”

“Oh, so we’re supposed to just dump our loved ones into the ground and try to forget them, like you do?! I grew up hearing the old stories on my great-great-great-great-pa’s back! Did you even get a chance to talk with yours?! I think not!”

“Well, no, because mine was never turned into a shambling mockery of a pony!”

Ruddy let out a deep gasp. “Well, at least my Empress doesn't use the title that sounds the cutest! Oh, and she doesn't bathe with her red laundry, either!” A shocked counter-gasp came over the line as the outraged bat-pony throw her head back and exploded at the poor phone. “AND GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GRANDPA DID NOT SHAMBLE! HE EVEN GOT TO TEACH ME HOW TO FLY, BECAUSE MY FAMILY PAID FOR THE GOOD BALING-WIRE AND EMBALMING FLUID! WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOUR FAMILY ACTUALLY PUT YOUR DAMN MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS AND DID SOMETHING LIKE THAT FOR YOUR ANCESTORS, HUH, HUH?”

PM had to fight down her breakfast at the mental image of Ruddy Dawn and her ‘great-great-great-great grandpa’ playing, or something, as if nothing was wrong…

Let us say, that Ruddy had shown enough family photos that could have served the dual purpose of anatomy studies for PM’s poor imagination to go rather rampant, and leave it at that for the squeamish in the audience.

But to the mare’s credit, she realized she’d stepped over a line, With a small sigh, she forced herself to apologize. “...Look, Ruddy? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that about your great-great-great grandpa.”

“Great-great-great-great-grandpa…” Ruddy Dawn corrected tartly. “And no, you shouldn't’ have.” PM nearly snapped at her again, but the slight sniffle to her friend and coworkers voice made her hesitate. “My great-great-great-great-grandpa did not shamble...”

Sometimes, there are certain things you need to do if you wish to call yourself somebody’s friend; no matter how little you may wish to do them.

Private Messenger squared her shoulders, and did just that.

No matter how little her lunch cared for the subject matter. “...Look, I… Do you want to talk about him? Sounds like he… was really important to you.”

Ruddy brightened up a bit… even if there was still a few patches of moisture on her cheeks her pride insisted didn’t exist. “I’m sorry, I just…” Ruddy fidgeted a bit, her rump shifting a bit on the floor. “Great-great-great-great-grandpa was the pony that made me try telling stories of my own.”

“...Oh.”

Sniffling slightly, Ruddy still couldn’t help but smile. “Should have seen him. All but owning the fire each night, each story gorier an’ scarier than the last!”

PM gulped slightly, despite herself. She couldn’t quite stop herself picturing a face, more bone than skin left, but grinning all the same…

And suddenly, quite a bit about her friends choice of subject matter to write about made this horrific sense.

“...So, what happened to him?” PM asked.

Ruddy’s smile fell slightly… but didn’t disappear completely. “...Got too old. Even necromancy has limits and…” The bat-pony mare couldn’t stop a bitter chuckle. “And he’d rather pass on, then become the shambling type.”

“...I’m sorry,” PM quietly said, suddenly feeling rather ashamed of herself, “I swear I di-”

“Oh hush,” Ruddy cut her friend off, waving a hoof for unseen emphasis out of habit, “you couldn’t have known, an’ you apologized already.”

A small sigh of relief came over the line, as Ruddy dried her tears on the back of her fetlock.

“...So,” PM asked cautiously, “forgive me for asking, but… any plans on… you know... That?”

Actually, I’m already immortal and about twice as old as this city! It’s just that if I ever come forward to as much as the wrong pony that has enough clout to convince others, I might just spark wars by my mere existence! And not only would that rather suck, but it would be almost guaranteed to force me to take an active role in politics AND give up any and all attempts of finding a way back to my OTHER homeworld!

The words flashed through Ruddy Dawn, AKA Death Darkness’, mind so fast they almost spilled off her tongue.

Instead, she just let out a sigh. “...Not really.” Despite the funk Ruddy felt at lying about such a question from a friend, the trickster in her couldn’t quite stop a bit of wordplay. “Gonna sound arrogant, but that type of thing just feels like it happens to other ponies, you know?”

PM let out a snort.

“You, then?” Ruddy asked in a careful voice. “Would getting a century or three extra really be so horrible?” The bat-pony heard her friend tense, even over the phone, but she pressed on. “You’d probably have to travel with me to Zebrave for it… but I wouldn’t mind introducing you to some of the really extended family, if you know what I mean…”

“Ruddy,” PM quickly interjected, sounding tense, “we shouldn’t talk about this.”

Ruddy herself let out a snort. “It’s perfectly legal, and considered moral at that, in Zebrave. If the royal sisters can’t stand even discussions, they really are tyrants.”

Seeing where the proverbial wind was blowing thanks to the resulting silence, Ruddy let out a sigh and switched subjects. “Fine, just forget it. Anything special you called me about, or…?”

Ruddy had to fight down a frown at the resulting sigh of relief, but she ignored it. “Just remember the book signing later today, ‘kay?” PM said.

The words ‘OH FUCKING BUCK!’ flashed through our heroine's head, in ten-meter tall neon letters. “Fu- Look, you need to reschedule that!”

“WHAT?!” PM exploded. “You expect me to do that in a matter of hours whe-” The mare, to Ruddy’s surprise, cut herself off. “Look, I’m good, but not that good, OK?! You need to be there!”

Ruddy bit down on her hoof, worried how much she should or even could, tell without risking her secret identity she’d worked so hard on keeping safe…

She barely hesitated. “Look, I simply can’t. I’m sorry for having dou-”

PM cut her off with what was almost a snarl. “Look, I promised to keep it quiet, but you need to be there, OK?! There’s a once in a life-time surprise waiting there for you, and I can’t reschedule it!”

“Well,” Ruddy said sourly, “then that’s just too bad.”

“And just what is so important?!”

“Because my oldest at the moment living friend is an utter fool, stubborn as hell and plans to go tomb-raiding today. If I don’t show, she’ll shrug and go anyway. Alone.

Ruddy almost heard the mental needle-scratch as PM did a double take. “Wait, what?”

“You bucking heard me the first time.”

The bat-pony in question did however hear as small pinging noises started up, as PM started gnawing on her hooves in frustration. “...Look, can’t you please convince… whoever your friend is, to post-pone for just a single day? I can’t reschedule the surprise!”

‘Tis a horrible thing to face drama without even a cup of coffee. Still, Ruddy pressed on, doing her best to massage away her mounting headache with her free hoof. “Look, can you at least give me a hint? Because if it is one of those honorary degrees or something useless like that, I’m frankly not risking my friend’s life for it.”

Ruddy was shocked as she actually heard hair being torn out on the other end of the line. What the hell was that important...?

“Look,” PM said after a few moments of disturbing sounds, “I promised I wouldn’t say, ‘kay? But it’s really a one in a life-time deal! I swear!”

Ruddy let out a groan. “Fine. I’ll try to get my crazy friend to reschedule…” The writer-slash queen-of-darkness made her voice much harder as she heard a happy little gasp. “But! If I don’t show then she said no. I am NOT risking one of my friends on a flippin’ surprise.”

As PM ‘umm-ed’ and ‘ah-ed,’ trying to figure out words that would actually guarantee that Ruddy would show later, that mare herself went through subtler changes than those that had previously swept her. She was already taller than most stallions by about a head or so, but at the moment she had the same androgynous features as Death Darkness.

These thickened and bulked, as if somebody was standing just off screen and flicking sliders in a character creator. Once the rippling of flesh and sinew had finished, the result could best be summed up with the word: ‘Butch’ There were still quite a few hints of femininity (even without most ponies reluctance to explore the dread lost art of ‘pants’ aside), but there was a clear ‘I wrestle bears in my free time’ overtone to the mares build.

The crawling mass of shadows serving as Death Darkness’ mane and tail grew still; settling as the hairs turned the radiant gold with streaks of pure white that had given Ruddy Dawn half her name appeared.

As PM continued to stutter, Ruddy held up a hoof to ensure she got the second part of her namesake right. As she watched the currently cyan hoof darkened and turned a vivid red; until the shorn hoof looked as if its owner had galloped through freshly spilled blood. That color seemed to spill out over her form, flowing out until near every bit of her pelt had a splattering of red to it. All except for her muzzle that turned just as red as her hooves.

All in all, except for the circle of churning dark where a cutie mark should have been, and how the mare looked like a walking propaganda poster for the dangers of the horrible blood-drinkers in the ‘right’ light? You would never have guessed what power the mare held.

With a decent effort of will, the only part of her transformation that required such for the mare, that circle shrank and disappeared. For a tiny moment a far more plain circle filled with unbroken spiral, drawn in a single line and made from what almost looked like pitch upon her fur, faded into view…

And then with only a shudder to mark its passing the unthinkable happened, as the cutie mark faded.

Which was the point after all. If you looked for an immortal hiding among mortals, which would you suspect? The bronze-skinned Aphrodite whom men and women fall in rows behind; their every step shaking the ground with power…

Or the bat-pony equivalent to a somewhat unfeminine girl with just the ‘right’ skin tone that meant she’d really like the accusations of wearing blackface to stop and an a-cup?

Death Darkness had been especially proud of that last idea. Most ponies, if given the choice would rather gnaw of their own tails than as much as shave their plots, thanks to all the beliefs and pride focused squarely on those marks. A pony mad enough to hide hers?

It was simply unthinkable... and that made a very good disguise.

Happy that she looked like her normal self again, Ruddy gave herself a nod before addressing her flustered friend once more. “PM? Shut up.”

Ignoring the sputtering, Ruddy pressed on. “After lunch at Books & Broadswords, right?”

Even over the phone you could all but hear how the slightly offended PM had stuck her nose in the air. “You call that being Kind to a friend, Ruddy?”

“Hey, I’m a ‘rip the Band-Aid off fast’ kind a gal. Besides, unless a certain mumbler has something more to add I’m currently being hindered from solving my scheduling conflict by this very conversation...”

PM, barely surprised by her friend’s lack of tact or subtlety anymore, let out a deep sigh before taking the ‘hint’ and continuing. “Yes, please be there.” The mare hesitated as she considered saying something more, anything to make sure her friend listened... but she was simply unsure just what master to serve at the moment. “...I wasn’t kidding about once in a lifetime, Ruddy. Please be there, OK?”

Ruddy herself couldn’t quite stop a sigh of irritation as she idly fussed with her mane, but PM had been a really solid girl to her so far. It wasn’t like her to exaggerate either.

“I’ll try. Hopefully I’ll see you there, OK?”

Realizing that she wasn’t getting more than that, PM let out a sigh of defeat and forced some cheer into her voice. “Fine. Good luck.”

Without further ado, the call ended.

Moving swiftly, Ruddy barely let the receiver clatter down before darting out her door and up a floor.

As she knocked a quick rhythm on the door belonging to the only mundane way Ruddy had to contact their mutual friend, she couldn’t quite stop a few choice bad words under her breath. A.K. Yearling wasn’t that bad a pony… but it just irked Ruddy to her core, knowing that the so-called ‘celebrated author’ was just a ghostwriter that parroted her friend Daring’s exploits.

Was a bit of creativity just too much to ask for in today’s youth?

Inside her room, a certain light gold colored pegasus sneezed as Daring Doo quickly struggled into the glasses and cloak that marked her for the world as her alter ego. Buck it all, just who could that be? Neither she nor ‘Yearling’ was expecting anypony… and she was just about to head out as well!

Grumbling, Yearling stomped up to the door and peaked out.

She nearly bucked the wide predatory grin and its golden predator eyed owner in the teeth on reflex…

Then she nearly did the same on recognizing the ‘bloody’ idiot herself. Daring just barely fought down the sigh… and desire for a quick punch. Ruddy was an utter loud idiot, a irritant of a night owl…

And the only other pony she actually know of that also knew Death Darkness existed, let alone the reclusive alicorn seemed to trust.

To be Honest? Daring just couldn’t see why. A bat-pony with those darn colors, deciding on writing horror? Oh, the originality! At least Daring had actually done all the darn stuff she’d written about! And she was just so plain, at that! Once you actually got past the ‘politically incorrect b-movie slasher’ look the poor girl had going, she just… eat, wrote, slept and watched TV from what Daring could tell.

Still, Daring thought as she forced the smile a bit wider, at least the girl was half-way pleasant to actually chat with. “Yes, Ruddy? What can I help you with?”

Ruddy, sitting on her haunches outside the door, in turn fought down her irritation at Yearling. Still, as long as you talked with her during the day the girl was pleasant enough… “Bad news, I’m afraid. DD can’t make it today.”

“WHAT?!” Daring exploded, hard enough her ‘disguise’ nearly fell off. “Why?!”

Ruddy for her part held her hooves up defensively. “Messenger, please don’t buck.”

Daring had to sit down herself and take a few deep breaths.

“Look,” Ruddy continued in a kind voice, “she told me she can make it if there’s a rush, but something just came up she didn’t expect.” It went against near every instinct for the mare, but Ruddy leaned in and ‘whispered conspiratorially’ to Yearling. “You know how ‘dark’ her work can get, so I didn’t want to pry too deeply.”

Despite her disappointment and irritation, Daring gave a stiff nod. Made sense after all. Who even knows what disturbing, horrible, unknowable things the alicorn of darkness and deception had to deal with right now?

Ruddy for her part, forced a slightly waxen smile towards her irate fellow author. “I know it’s a bit sudden, but think you can reach the other DD in time?” The bat-pony mare fidgeted slightly on her spot. “...Know I haven’t met her as often as you have... but she seemed like a sweet girl, and I don’t want that stubborn mare getting hurt.”

Yearling carefully kept her face neutral as she gave Ruddy a nod. She still had no idea what Death Darkness saw in Ruddy… but she’d proven solid enough under pressure a few times. Was probably that Zebraven upbringing at work, but Daring had a feeling there was something more to it. Sure, getting bounced on a knee with less fur than your average apple, or whatever, tended to make sure the average Zebravian didn’t spook easily… but that hardly translated to being able to throw a punch.

“Give me a moment…” was all she said outwardly before heading inside her apartment.

With a sigh, Daring headed for her phone.

Darn it all, I hate this part about a secret identity…

A few dial-tones later, and Daring Doo’s answering machine picked up back in her cottage. “Hi, you’ve reached somewhere, you really should know where if you’ve got this number. Anypony about to leave any ‘cute’ little messages at my home, try to call down any curses on me, or sell me stuff?”

Daring couldn’t quite stop a smile as this bloodcurdling scream forced itself out of the receiver. Truly, the things you can buy online, including sound-effect machines, was beyond multitude nowadays…

“Well, that was the last idiot minion that tried to hide under my bed until I fell asleep. I don’t mind some ‘friendly’ hooficuffs while racing for the artifact of the week, or whatever…” The almost friendly tone the message had so far been in suddenly took a nosedive into something that made bedrock seem nice and fluffy. “But. My. Home. Is. Off-limits. Just a single friendly warning, hint, hint. You know the rest of the drill.”

Daring herself cleared her throat as the tone beeped in her ear. “Hello, this is Yearling. Just want to give you a head’s-up that our mutual friend just told me DD can’t come today.”

Daring held the receiver away from her ear for a moment, pretending to just have been screamed in the air. “Don’t scream ‘what’ at me, young lady! I’m just acting as the messenger’s messenger on this one!”

While holding the receiver and slowly counting down from ten, Daring thought it over. To her knowledge, the Temple of Shadows should ‘just’ be of archaeological interest. There wasn’t even an artifact or anything this time, just bones, rocks and some dust.

Interesting bones, rocks and dust, but even so.

Thing is, that was how it usually seemed at the start… and then some prick shows up, starts raving about ‘the whatsit of the eternal thingamajig,’ and how they’ll do nasty stuff forever and ever with it. And then it was a mad dash to buck the idiots in the face, and hope there was enough left of the temple and artifacts afterwards that it was actually worth gluing the bits back together again, let alone perform a proper dig there.

The receiver creaked slightly as Daring grumbled under her breath into it. Seriously, when was the last time she’d been at a proper dig? Was it really too much to ask? For a single darn time not having to see the ancient irreplaceable temple sinking down into a pit of lava from nowhere? Half the time it wasn’t even near geologically active ground! It was as if all the ancient temples were powered by the same darn lava dimension, or something!

Honestly, was it really no wonder why so many Equestrian archaeologist said ‘buck it’ to their cutie marks and ended up taking up more safe and sane professions? Like crash-test dummies, dragon dentistry, or similar occupations with hazard pay...

Daring let out a small sigh she hoped would sound like one of relief. She’d have preferred one that wasn’t an eccentric recluse seemingly terrified of politics and recognition, of all darn things, truth be told… but a alicorn as a friend? Nothing to sneeze at.

Who knows? Perhaps, just perhaps… that second best thing to divine intervention... Might just be what Daring needed to actually perform archaeology for once...

Daring’s heart sank a bit. She just wished there could be two names on the resulting paper. All this sneaking about might be in DD’s nature… but it had no place in science, and it hurt Daring seeing somepony that had come so far, done so much, just...

Wasting it all on trying to pretend she was still mortal, truth be told.

Daring couldn’t stop a slightly bitter chuckle. As if she was one to talk on that last point…

Still, more than enough time had passed for a ‘tantrum’ to have taken place on the other end. “I’ll make sure Ruddy passes it along. You take care, OK?”

Without any further fakery or fuzz, Daring hung up on herself and headed back to the door.

She had to fight down a snicker at the sight that greeted her. Apparently, a certain bat-pony wasn’t taking being up early very well, because the mare had slid down onto the floor in a boneless heap; snoring loudly enough for the sound to revert slightly down the dark hallway.

Having gotten enough bite-marks the last time she’d tried to wake a certain night-owl of a bat-pony, Daring headed back in and grabbed a stick she’s kept around for this purpose.

Gingerly and ready to spring back at any moment… Daring reached out and poked Ruddy just under her wings.

The hallway seemed to darken, as the cruel golden eyes of Ruddy dawn snapped open; the golden orbs shining from within the only light seemingly capable of piercing the sudden gloom. Her wings snapped open in challenge, and a near inequine hiss spilled forth from between her razor-maw as she rose slowly as some great leviathan with her hooves outstretched to grab whom ever had dared disturb her slumber…

And that was about the point Yearling whacked her on the snoot with the stick.

Ruddy, now wide-awake, fell sputtering to the floor in a heap.

“Seriously, Ruddy…” Daring calmly said before throwing the stick back into her apartment. “I know you get your jollies of it, but do you really have to court every darn bat-pony stereotype?”

“Well, I do drink, sarcastic pause, wine...” Ruddy grumbled in a tearse tone, rubbing her muzzle as she got up again. Her features softened as she gave Yearling an apologetic look, though. “Sorry about that, though. It’s…” A bright blush turned the mare’s already red muzzle positively crimson. “...Let’s say that Equestrian caves aren’t a bright and happy little biome for a species to evolve in, and please leave that particular irritating instinct at that, shall we? Please?

Daring couldn’t quite keep a smirk off her face. “Really? That’s your excuse?”

Ruddy rolled her eyes, but the blush wouldn’t leave. “One freakin’ word, Yearling. Dragons.” Slowly so her neighbor would know she was just demonstrating, Ruddy expanded her wings, hooves and the corridor dimmed once more, as her eyes lit from within. “You don’t scare those off by giving half a show, you know?”

Daring grumbled a bit, but she had to admit that sounded plausible. “Anyway, Daring wasn’t happy, but she got it.”

Ruddy let out a deep sigh she didn’t even know she’d been holding in. “Thanks, Yearling.” With her tongue firmly in cheek, she leaned over and elbowed the other mare slightly. “You might be a poser, but you’re a life-saving poser.”

Yearling just rolled her eyes. If this stuffed manticore that thinks she’s so big an’ scary had seen even half of what I’ve had...

For a moment, Ruddy hesitated… then she gave a small smile. “Hey, you mind if I ask something?”

Daring raised an eyebrow at that. Just where was this coming from? “...Shoot.”

Ruddy answered by extending a wing in the general direction of downtown Manehattan. “Know you’re not a night-owl like I am… but you want to head out and…” A loud snapping sound filled the corridor as Ruddy shrugged her bat wings; the membranes for a moment catching the air. “I don’t know; have a side-kicks night-out, or something?”

Daring just had to blink; totally blindsided.

“Know this is slightly out of the blue,” Ruddy continued, “but… well, you’ve been a really good neighbor so far, and I don’t have anything to do later tonight. Just spur of the moment stuff.”

Daring bit her lip and looked away as she thought it over. On one hoof, Ruddy’s idea of a wild night in was cackling evilly while cooking pizza, something that didn’t exactly scream ‘party animal...’

But on the other, to Daring’s mounting horror she couldn’t even remember last time she’d just done something… normal. Even the stuff with DD was just a bit too long apart and… well, even having tea with an alicorn was hardly normal, no matter how much the goddess in denial tried to pretend otherwise.

“Come on!” Ruddy, quite clearly seeing the hesitation writ large on Yearling’s face, leaned forward and elbowed her gently again. “Just two normal mares, doing something normal together without any weirdness. A drink, a lick, a cute drunk to lick…”

Daring’s face turned almost as red as Ruddy’s as the later wiggled her eyebrows suggestively at her. “...Look, you might be able to get away with a lot thanks to the whole not from Equestria thing, but I know sharing stallions isn’t a normal Zebravian bonding ritual…”

“Who said a word about stallions?” Ruddy stuck her tongue out with a smile as Daring’s cheek all but spontaneously combusted. “I just used the word dru~unk…”

By the time Ruddy slapped Daring on the back, all while laughing like a loon, the later mare was just moments away from fainting from embarrassment. “Oh, you cute little Equestrians and sex!” Ruddy had to wipe a few tears away as Daring scowled at her. “If I outlive Luna and Celestia themselves I don’t think I’m going to tire of messing with any of you about that!” The larger mare poked her smaller neighbor in the chest softly using her free hoof. “But come now, would that kind of evening really be that bad?”

Daring, who shock upon shocks, had done some traveling in her days, gave the currently stark naked pony holding her an bemused look. “And if I pointed out that somepony doesn’t have as much as a ear-ring on, oh noble savage of the south…?”

Grinning like the canary that had managed to eat the cat, Ruddy just put her hoof to her chest and held her head high. “Well, I will have you know, that I’m not only this incredibly sexy and humble about it…” Daring let out a snort. “...but I’m also a nudist.”

On hearing what might have been the most stupid sentence she’d ever heard from another pony, Daring could only think of one response. “...What.”

“Oh, you should see the old-timers muttering back in Zebrave!” Ruddy puffed her mane, clearly proud of herself. “Me, all this, and not even a single bit of copper on me! Oh, you should see the colts starring!”

Despite herself, Daring just couldn’t help but laugh a bit.

“Honestly, though, Yearling,” Ruddy complained, with a small shake of her rump for emphasis. “The way nopony around here seem to react to nudity? That’s something that’s just so boring around here. Heck, I could probably paint my teats neon pink, and not even the colts would react!”

Blushing a few shades deeper but smiling while doing so, Daring gently pushed Ruddy away from her door. “Shoo, you overgrown pervert,” Daring nodded down the hallway, “and don’t you have a message to deliver to our friend?”

Ruddy hesitated while looking over her shoulder. “So…?”

“...Sure,” Daring said with only a few moments of hesitation. “Must admit, I’m not a heavy drinker, or licker, but going out for once sounds fun.”

“Yes!” Screamed Ruddy, pumping her hoof in the air like an overexcited filly. “Pick you up by seven, ‘kay?” The bat-pony started skipping down the hallway, only to catch herself and stop before disappearing down the bend of the corridor. “Oh, and wear something other than that ratty cloak of yours, or you’ll scare both the mares and stallions away!”

Daring couldn’t quite stop an eye roll, but the smile never went away. Was that what Death Darkness saw in Ruddy? The mares really had somewhere about as much dignity and maturity as each other, but Daring had to admit the enthusiasm was quite endearing. “No promises; have to think of the image, you know?” Daring said with a wave.

With a big toothy grin, Ruddy waved back before trotting off. Death Darkness had no idea what her brave if reckless friend saw in that mousy girl, Yearling, but she had to admit, the girl had quite a bit of moxie if you actually managed to get her out of her shell.

The moral of this story, full of sound and fury, written by a giggling idiot; If you end up a goddess of darkness and deception, and give your best friend your actual blessing make sure both of you don’t live in the same town and have secret identities, or things might end up stupid.

The author is sure this is a life-lesson that will be applicable for many of you, so be certain to make mental note of it.

At any rate, Ruddy Dawn was soon back in her apartment. A quick shower later, her favorite green vest with pockets and everything, and some plain silver bangles later… and Ruddy actually looked as if she was a halfway civilized monster!

Ruddy Dawn smiled wide at her mirror while giving her mane a last minute brush. “Mirror, mirror on the wall… who is the most color-coordinated pony of them all?”

(Backup link since Googledocs is so finicky with linking pictures.)

The mirror promptly screamed, and cracked clean in two; a small torrent of silvery shards jumping to their doom to escape the horror before them.

Chuckling happily, Ruddy fluffed her mane with a hoof. “Oh yes, who's a pretty bat-pony!” Licking her hoof, Ruddy pressed it against her flank… only for what quite clearly sounded like the screams of the damned emanate from her butt. “I am!”

Strutting like if she owned the place (Which the eccentric and reclusive Lady Glorious Undertaking in fact did since Death Darkness found it hilarious to pay rent to herself, but that is beside the point.) Ruddy Dawn trotted out into the light.

She then promptly hissed at the burning of the day-star, went back into her apartment and tried again with her special glasses on this time.

Now, even in as cosmopolitan a city as Manehattan, a bat ponies was a decently rare sight. One that looked as if they’d been right in-between when a butcher shop and a paint factory exploded? Doubly so did not do it justice.

Still, since she had an appointment, Ruddy reeled in her vanity and actually managed to get to Books & Broadswords without swaggering so much she tumbled into traffic. Thankfully, after the storm last night, the streets were mostly empty and she made good time.

The decently sized store, in typical pony logic, made some sense if you actually thought about it. A result of the marriage of Keen Edge (Master Smith) and Rare Volume (Master Bookbinder) had resulted in a successful business with an odd if enthusiastic clientele.

Their daughter Razor Binding, the current owner, had not turned out quite as successful a union of those two extremes... but she was doing better. After some therapy, some (not so) minor surgery and more than a little common sense, she’d given up on trying to weaponize paper cuts.

With a minimum of hassle, and needing to polity reassure only a few fans that the signing had yet to begin, Ruddy managed to slip past the counter and into the backroom.

She was almost immediately glomped by a positively tiny unicorn mare. “Ruddy! You made it!”

With a quick squeeze in return and a hush, Ruddy smiled at her friend. “Glad to see you, PM, but ixnay on the you-know-what, ‘kay?”

PM was, aside from being barely a head taller than most fillies, was a quite shapely mare. Her coat was a light, but pleasant, beige while her mane and tail were a chocolate brown that matched her eyes.

Shock of all shocks, the mare named PM had in fact a sealed scroll wrapped in red-ribbon as a cutie mark. Who’d have thunk it?

PM smiled back, before turning and fiddling with some papers. “Oh, I simply can’t wait!”

“Yeah,” Ruddy snarked, sidling over to a nearby coffee maker to claim her first pint of the day, “I’m sure me smiling and breaking all the cameras will go over really well with the press.”

Ruddy barked out a laugh, as PM glared her way, and she herself took her first swig from the glass coffee pot. “Again.”

PM frowned, as much at the rather tasteless source of amusement as Ruddy’s taste in ‘mugs.’ “Seriously, Ruddy, you’re going to be dead before forty with how much coffee you drink…”

For a moment, Ruddy just lost it; laughing so hysterically she almost spilled what was left of the pot all over herself. “...Go on,” she barely managed to the stunned PM, waving her ‘cup’ for emphasis.

“...and how are you doing that? I put on that pot myself! It’s piping hot!”

“Magnets,” Ruddy deadpanned while taking a slow swig from the steaming coffee, not taking her twinkling eyes of PM.

With an unamused glare, PM folded her arms Ruddy’s way.

“Really strong ones,” Ruddy continued with an innocent smile. “With extra pixie dust, and everything!”

With a flick of her tail, PM went back to her papers. “It’s not nice to lie to friends…” she muttered angrily under her breath, before shaking her head sadly and speaking up. “Honestly, Ruddy, you’re so much better than this. If you actually took things even slightly more seriously, I think you could do great things.”

Ruddy nearly choked on her coffee. “Hey!” she shouted, waving the half-empty pot around like a pointer. “That was a sarcastic joke, and you know it!” With a huff, Ruddy slammed the pot back onto its plate so hard the glass nearly cracked. “And you said yourself you don’t want the darn explanations because ‘magic makes your head hurt!’”

The secretary blinked at the sudden turn. PM just simply… kept forgetting, but once more it was clear something had been lost in translation.

With a huff, Ruddy swept past her. “I’m starting early.”

“Wait!” PM shouted, hoof outstretched… but Ruddy had already faked a smile, and gone out into the store proper.

For a few moments, PM just stood there; utterly stunned. Was it something she’d said? Surely, thinking somepony could be so much better than a blank flank with a few gory stories under her belt was a compliment, right?

...Right?

Hesitatingly, PM walked over… and touched the glass of the coffee-pot. With a wince of pain, she quickly pulled back and started waving her hoof to cool her frog down.

How in Tartarus had Ruddy sipped from that thing? PM wasn’t that big a magical klutz that she did know such things were possible…

But without even a glimmer of magic?

Not for the first time, especially with her friend’s earlier mentions of necromancy, PM simply had to wonder…

Just what really lurked under that garish coat?

PM knew she wasn’t the sharpest horn in the blessing… but she was hardly the dullest, either.

Fine, bat ponies and their fear magic were infamous… but an illusion bad enough she had nearly wet herself the first time she’d accidentally woken up Ruddy? Over the phone no less!?

Sure, the ‘dirty secret’ of unicorn magic you weren’t supposed to talk about was that horns were only really just a big boon in using it… but a bat pony good enough to do stuff like what PM had just seen?

Granted, most Equestrians didn’t trust, or even like to talk about, anything from or about Zebrave. An entire country as comfortable with necromancy as most Equestrians are with things levitating? That just wasn’t something you talked about… but was that an intentional bluff on Ruddy’s part?

PM simply didn’t have the answers. Not yet, anyway. Only thing she did know for sure, was that there were far too many scary looking letters in the equation for her liking.

“...Darn it all, Ruddy...” PM wined softly to herself, while alternating between licking and shaking her singed hoof. “Why can’t your deep, dark secret be how much you like dragon slash sea-pony porn, or something, like normal ponies…?”

With a sad look, she stared momentarily towards her pile of paper… and the gilded stationery just barely poking out from under the heap. Guess I’m about to find out…

Ruddy for her part, had all but already forgotten about the argument and was knee deep in fans; her fake smile long gone as she basked in the attention.

Now this is how things are supposed to be! Me, my awesome skills, things I’ve actually done with ‘em, and people that like what they’ve seen! No creepy cults! No ‘Your Highness’ this, ‘Your Highness’ that! No ‘an alicorn is royalty, so suck it up and act proper’ crap!

“Here you go, kid,” Ruddy said with a wide smile, as she handed over a copy of ‘The Dark Place’ to an eager young colt. “Just make sure your mom or dad’s with you, ‘kay? Nightmares aren’t nearly as fun as getting scared.”

Nodding so hard his head nearly fell off, the small yellow pegasus colt gently showed the book into his saddlebags, before all but prancing over to his nervous looking mother. “Mommy! Mommy! I got it!”

Despite how nervous the blue earth pony was at the rather pointy (if also goofy) grin aimed her and her son’s way, the mare couldn’t quite stop a small giggle. “Yeah, that tends to happen at book signings, dear.” The blue mare giggled again at how her son pouted, leaning down to give him a quick nuzzle. “Come now, and we’ll finish up with ice-cream.”

“Yay!”

There was quite a line… but Ruddy just had to prop her head up for a few moments and let out a soft sigh. “Now there’s weapons grade cute, alright…” she murmured happily, as the colt and his mum drifted out and away.

The lean mare next in line let out a small cough into her hoof… if smiling while doing so.

“Ah, sorry. Just got distracted, miss…?”

“Sunny Skies,” the white pegasus with pink hair said, smiling friendly as she handed over her own copy.

With a hum of acknowledgement, Ruddy dragged the book closer and started signing. “Any requests?”

“...May I ask just how you get your…” A tiny frown of disgust passed over the mare’s face, but it was gone as fast as it had arrived. Ruddy noticed, but pretended not to have. “...anatomy so vividly accurate?”

“I’m from Zebrave, dear. No offence to one of Equestrian mint, but most of us learn the bones and major organs at about the same time as you guys learn what wings and hooves are.” With a cheekily blown raspberry, Ruddy passed the book back. “Just a bit less awkward to tell the old timers ‘Hey, you dropped this!’ that way.”

With a slight stutter and a grimace of disgust, the totally normal pegasus Sunny Skies said “Thank you” before backing off and heading out.

Honestly, Ruddy thought, do those three fools and their pet monster even know what they are missing? Like those empty damn palaces is worth missing this type of stuff!

Next in line was a midnight blue unicorn with a single star as her cutie mark and a mane a glossy black. “Stargazer,” she said while putting her copy on the small signing table, “I really enjoy your work.”

“Thank you!” Ruddy beamed a smile ‘Stargazer’s’ way, before clicking her pen. “Any requests?”

“I mean no offence… but why horror? Isn’t that a bit… courting the stereotype?”

Huh, lots of questions this time… “Meh, earth ponies grow, pegasi fly, bat-ponies frighten...“ With a shrug and a smile, Ruddy returned a book. “I know I’m probably a mixed-blessing for the bat-pony PR department... but you need to play on your strengths, right?”

With a neutral hum and a “Thank you,” Stargazer trotted off to Sunny Skies, leaning their heads together into a whispered conversation.

For a few moments, Ruddy just looked their way, feeling she was forgetting and/or missing something important… but ultimately she just shrugged and focused on the next in line.

If it had been really important, she would have remembered, right?

Next, came a golden maned earth pony, with hot-pink fur and a single golden heart as a cutie mark. “Beloved Song.”

With a hum, Ruddy accepted the offered book. “Any requests?”

Without hesitation, Beloved Song raised her hoof. “A hoof-shake? Please?”

Ruddy hesitated. Non unicorn (overtly so, at least) mages were rare… but with a name with love in it? Some of the nastier spells from that school could be cast both quickly and covertly…

With a smile and an effort of will, Ruddy used one of her own; her heart momentarily feeling like ice as her emotional connections were forced into unchanging stasis.

As their hooves touched, there was a small light-blue flash, and Beloved Song let out an urk as her spell backfired.

Still smiling, Ruddy wrote: Nice try, kid, and I’m flattered... but try to cast love spells on me again, and I’m breaking the hoof you do it with. ~Sincerely, Ruddy Dawn, to Beloved Song.

“Darn static,” Ruddy lied through her grin, as she passed the book to the frowning mare. “Must have been that wild-weather last night, huh?”

The mare’s frown turned into an outright scowl on seeing the dedication. “...I just wanted to find out if you love writing as much as it seems like from your books. Isn’t Black Heart’s Emotional Freeze a bit… much?”

A loud muttering broke out in the rest of the line at the words, both of shock and agreements.

Still smiling, Ruddy spread her wings and arms in a wide shrug. “Sorry, kid, but I’ve had to scrub my heart of love spells before, and it ain't even half as pleasant as it sounds.”

Beloved choked and spluttered on her own spit.

“Yeah…” Ruddy ‘thumbed’ her nose. “Sorry if you’re being earnest, but I’m not going through that crap again.”

Her face a blank mask, and ignoring the mutterings, Beloved spoke up in a careful voice. “...You do know that takes away all the love, right?”

With a crack not hearable on the mortal plane, Ruddy’s heart flash thawed in the wave of sudden fury. She just barely managed to not go into a rage, but almost all of the line still flinched from the fanged snarl she sported for a few moments. “Yes, I do.”

“...And because it is love, no matter its source?”

Ruddy tilted her head, surprised at the sudden hard tone to the other mare’s voice. “Oh, I see, a bleeding heart of a love mage that has convinced themselves their chosen profession isn't nearly as bucked up and morally questionable as it is.” With a shove that was harder than technically necessary, Ruddy poked the book into Beloved’s hooves. “I’m sorry, but I frankly disagree.”

With a pout that would have been adorable if not somehow having a razor edge to it, Beloved countered. “You are aware, that Princes Cadenza herself can’t tell true love and the result of the best love spells apart, right?”

Ruddy just waved her off. “I’ve got a scale replica of a Maneelangelo in my study even a couple of art critics have fawned over until I told ‘em. Paid good enough money for it, it even has the brush-strokes just right.” Ruddy paused for a moment, before shrugging again. “Doesn’t mean trying to sell it as the real deal wouldn’t be fraud, now would it?”

For a moment as the rest of the crowd murmured, Beloved just looked baffled. “...Why in the name of Harmony would you pay that much for a fake? Or be proud of it? Isn’t that rather… dishonest?”

“Because it, A, amuses me, B, allowed me to be something of a ‘patron of the arts,’ C, it is an glorious conversation piece.” Rudy blew a raspberry at the mare. “And, D, it’s hardly dishonest when you actually call a fake a fake, yes?”

And, E, Ruddy silently added in her own mind, it for just a few moments every time I see it, allows me to remember there are nicer —or even beautiful, sides to Deception… That sometimes, just sometimes… a Lie may be just as glorious and require even more work than the Truth, while being just as valuable.

A small thing, but it helped… well, Death Darkness to sleep at night.

That and Mr. Doombringer, but he doesn’t make quite as dramatic a philosophical point.

No matter the epic level of his snugglines, because, alas, some things are simply not meant to be...

With a snort, Ruddy continued. “Besides, aren’t you the one arguing love spells are the same as real love? Shouldn’t you be all for being proud of a fake…?”

With a harrumph and her nose in the air, Beloved Song stalked off to Sunny Skies and Stargazer with the book on her back; the latter two looking somewhere between worried and sympathetic.

With a sad shake of her head before pointedly ignoring the three gossips, Ruddy fought down some genuine disgust. Freaking love mages. Creepy hypocrites, the lot of ‘em.

Before long, things were a’ moving again. The three not at all important ponies having drifted off to a nearby table, performing what quite clearly couldn’t have been anything at all except gossip under their breath as Ruddy fell into a steady rhythm.

Small talk. Sign. Repeat.

Wasn’t glamorous or nice on the fetlocks, but it was rewarding.

All in all, it took about an hour or so of peace and quiet before the walking corpse came pouring out of the water-cooler.

It started innocently enough, just a slight cloudiness to the water inside the big, blue bottle.

Then two ice-blue pin-pricks of light lit in the center of the water, and a booming voice cut the air; seemingly from nowhere and everywhere at once. “Greetings, honored living. I bear a message for the author Ruddy Dawn. Is she present?”

Roseluck, who’d just poured herself a glass of water before continuing her calming vacation away from the craziness of Ponyville, gently folded into a quiet little heap on the floor.

“...Oh, come on,” the voice continued, sounding both irritated and insulted, the two pin-pricks of corpse light somehow swiveling around in a rather clear eye-roll. “That’s just rude. I didn’t as much as say freakin’ boo!”

Somehow, this caused a slight stir.

However, before the crowd could panic properly, or the three completely ordinary mares do more than tense, Ruddy spoke up. “Yes? That’s me.” The mare waved a hoof towards the crowd. “Could this wait a few hours, however? You probably know by now how squeamish Equestrians are, and these are closed quarters…”

As near one being, the crowd went: “Huh?!”

It would be hard to point to exactly how it happened, but just as clearly the momentarily hunted water-bottle gave off a quite decent impression of having had done a grimace of disgust. Still, just as quickly, the creature was all poise and manners once more. “Forgive me, Lady Dawn, but I carry word from Empress Maji and Empress Mganga themselves.” For just a moment, the eyes drifted over the stunned crowd, their owner seemingly rather unimpressed. “If the creatures that call these calamity prone lands home can't stand the sight of a single honorarily Drowned Dead… Frankly, then they all need the visit of a shaman to drive out the spirits of stupidity that so clearly haunt them.”

By their table, the eyes on the three totally normal mares narrowed dangerously.

The creature noticed, and looked their way. “Oh no, the undead ‘abomination! He’s being slightly sarcastic. Somepony, please think of the foals!”

Slowly, Ruddy blinked out of the funk such an unexpected message had given her. “...Wapanzi? Is that you?”

What just might have been the creature blushing could be seen; as these two just barely visible clouds of red formed in the water. “Mom, I’m on the clock. Please at least pretend to be impressed.”

As a wave, one thought passed through the stunned crowd at hearing the now much more normal stallion’s voice; even the three totally normal ponies.

“...What.”

The creature ‘rolled’ its eyes again. “Yeah, like any of you sprang fully formed from the ether.”

Ruddy, now with a big, goody, pointy grin, quite literally teleported in a great golden-yellow flash. She appeared just in front of the water-cooler, reared up on her hind-legs and gave the haunted water bottle a hug hard enough that the plastic creaked loudly. <“Wapanzi! Oh, I’m so happy to see you!”>

With another ‘blush,’ the creature let out a cough. “...Love you to, mom, but can you please let me out so I can give you the messages? I’ve got a rep to uphold to, you know.”

“Oh, sure,” Ruddy said happily smiling, turning the small tap without hesitation.

At their table, the three totally normal mares the author keeps mentioning for no reason what-so-ever tensed.

For a few moments, nothing happened. Not even the expected outpouring of water.

Ruddy got out of the way, dragging of the still unconscious Roseluck by her tail so she wouldn’t get wet.

Then the water started pouring out. The eyes in the water watched intently until seemingly happy with the puddle quickly forming, only then flowing out.

The spilled water darkened and clouded further, strange swirls and forms twisting just under the surface.

Only when the whole thing had darkened to the point the whole puddle looked more like spilled blood than water, did the bony hoof pierce the surface.

Creaking and twitching, the only sounds in the store, the bones and tendons that had once been a hoof started feeling for the edge of the puddle. Once that first hoof had a sturdy grip, another equally rotted hoof came out of the water, and grabbed at the other side.

Then, the creature heaved...

Itself out of the black puddle, a quivering and dripping skeleton rose; its eyes burning with cold, blue flames, and a icy-blue gem inside its ribcage shining a clear light that hurt to look at.

“Drama queen…” Ruddy, once more at her desk, muttered just under her breath with a smile. “Honestly, how about you try getting out this decade…?”

The skeleton let out a deep snort that misted in the air. “Mom, do I steal your thunder…?”

“Constantly.” Ruddy proper her head up on a hoof, and stuck her tongue out playfully. “It’s almost as if you get it from somepony in the family, or something!”

Shaking his skull, the creature turned back; staring intently down into the murky depths.

Once it happened, it was over in but a few seconds. With a nauseating looking mix of rimfrost covering an object and flesh liquefying in reverse, the ‘corruption’ of the blackened waters flowed up and around the bones.

The creature ignored the gags and words from the crowd, instead gently feeling his jaw with a hoof. Satisfied, the creature heaved himself up and clear off the puddle, revealing that his ‘new’ flesh simply stopped at his barrel.

What darkness remained in the water didn’t stay there, however. Once more, it flowed up and over his bones, ‘healing’ him.

The zebra was tall for a stallion, but almost as lean as a mare. Aside from a small stud of silver in each ear quickly untarnishing and reforming even as the stunned crowd watched, he was nude. Wapanzi gently shook himself off, making his shortly cropped mane and tail dance around as water fell onto the floor in rivulets.

Once finished, aside from the still burning ‘eyes’ you could not have told him and any other zebra apart.

The three totally normal ponies shared a worried look. Just what was one of the Drowned Dead doing here? And now, of all times?

The three totally normal mares got their answer, as something started forming on the stallion’s back. It started as little more than a black outline in the air, but quickly ‘unrotted’ into what was clearly two stuffed, if small, saddle bags, made from brown leather and bearing the official seal of Zebrave as their clasps.

The golden circle —the symbol of a boiling cauldron standing on a log-fire on its top— already gleamed in the light, but Wapanzi still gave both a quick rub with his hooves.

“...Oh, just fantastic,” Sunny Skies murmured under her breath, low enough only her companions heard. “Stargazer, Beloved, don’t do anything. He’s the real deal.”

“And since when,” Stargazer hissed back just as low, “do we allow undead to stalk our shores?!”

Beloved Song gave a tiny nod of agreement, her lips a hard line.

Sunny Skies made pained grimace. “Since Zebrave got influential enough to force m- Celestia to give their ‘honored messengers’ diplomatic immunity.”

Stargazer’s eyes nearly popped out of their sockets from sudden anger. “And this atrocity was allowed by Celestia why?” The unicorn mare snarled out, just barely stopping herself from slamming a hood down onto the table. “Surely she of all ponies have nothing to fear from a bunch of alchemists without alicorns to guide them!”

Sunny fidgeted in her seat. “...Stargazer, there are certain things I haven’t wanted to talk with you about since your… trip. Please, just trust me for the moment, OK? He should be gone within the hour.”

Fuming, Stargazer leaned back with a snort, crossing her arms.

“You know…” The undead stallion told the fuming mares, a hard edge to his voice. “...Where I am from, we actually expect certain behaviors between guests and hosts…”

With a sweep of his hoof, the now sparklingly clear water flowed up and into the cooler, the tap turning as if by itself.

There wasn’t as much as a wet patch left on the floor.

“Just saying, Ladies.”

As he passed, Stargazer snarled at him. “And I am sure you would not be so sure of yourself, abomination, were the Princesses here!”

At her desk, Ruddy bristled, but said nothing.

Wapanzi stopped mid step, one hoof hanging in the air. Instead of the irate Stargazer, however, he turned to the worried looking Sunny Skies. “You seem to have a good head on your shoulders, foal. Would you be a dear and tell your friends what the words ‘diplomatic crisis,’ ‘casus belli’ and ‘mutually assured destruction’ means? I simply do not have the time.” With a lazy smile, Wapanzi turned his gaze towards Stargazer. “Not with small enough words, at any rate.”

Humming a happy but wordless tone, Wapanzi all but pranced away from the three stunned mares.

He got about five steps before Stargazer rose and slammed down both hooves onto the table; snarling at him like an animal.

Wapanzi just slowly turned his head. “Madame, I have not seen my mother for nearly ten years, exactly because Equestria is this wary of undead. The only reason I even got this task, is because I sank down and begged for it. Can I not be allowed to say hi, deliver my letters and leave in peace? Please?”

Stargazer hesitated for long enough that Sunny Skies managed to pull her down into her seat again. The dark mare did not look happy about it, but with a huff, she resettled.

“...Thank you,” Wapanzi solemnly said to both mares, before returning towards Ruddy.

With a big smile and not a shred of hesitation, Ruddy pulled him into a hug once he got close enough. <“Missed you.”>

<“Same here, mom.”>

With anger that was only a little faked, Ruddy poked her son in his chest. <”Not enough to write…”>

A few of the more skittish ponies twitched as Wapanzi growled softly. <”I do, mom… and then the Equestrian Zebrave embassy sends them back. Unless they just burn them for ‘being contaminated with black magic...’”>

A horrified look swept over Ruddy, before she pulled Wapanzi into a hug once more. <”I see… well, we’ll just have to make a pair of those two-way mirrors, then, or something.”>

<”You mean the ones that cost more than most mansions...?”>

Ruddy leaned her head against his neck. <”Bha, if all else fails, I guess I could stretch my magical skills.”> To a mix of “Aww…” and “Eww!!” from the crowd, Ruddy gently kissed Wapanzi on the neck. <”Besides, you’re worth it.”>

Wapanzi gently started blushing again.

With a big, perverted grin, Ruddy leaned back. “Oh, and I believe I am, by old mare’s law, obligated to ask about grand-foals!”

“Mom,” Wapanzi deadpanned, “I am, if you haven't noticed, a walking corpse. I think that ship has not only sailed, but actually ran aground and sank quite a while ago.”

“And that’s what necrophiles and slash or magic is for!” Ruddy happily exclaimed, making the other half of the crowds collective jaw drop. “Come on, I want to hear the splish-splosh of tiny hooves again!”

Wapanzi was not alone in making a grimace of slight disgust. “Only you, mom, only you…”

Ruddy prodded a hoof into his chest. “Seriously though, Wapanzi, I’m not letting you warp half-way across the world twice in the same day.” With a harrumph, Ruddy stuck her nose in the air. “And if any squeamish Equestrians want to be giant flaming hypocrites about me showing my son some Kindness and Loyalty, they can go sniff their own farts for all I care about their opinions.”

There was some angry murmuring at the words from the crowd… but also quite a bit of fidgeting and uncomfortable looks.

With a soft pat, Wapanzi’s hoof met his softly smiling face. “Oh mom, you and your diplomacy ‘skills…’”

Beckoning him over, Ruddy started walking towards behind the counter. “Come now, there’s this back-room you can wait in until I’ve finished up here, shouldn’t take more than a few hours more…”

With a nod, Wapanzi rose and followed her.

The three totally normal ponies went into a whispering huddle again.

Ignoring the three idiots, Ruddy addressed the crowd. “Signings will continue in just a few moments, so please have patience while I introduce my son to my secretary…”

Translation from Polite to Pony: “Now is a good time to scarper from the ‘monster,’ if you have to be rude about it.”.

A wide-eyed PM was sitting just in the doorway once they entered; the poor mare too stunned to even pretend she had done anything but seen and heard anything. “...So that’s why you get so defensive about necromancy.”

Smiling proudly Wapanzi’s way, Ruddy nodded. “Yup.” To PM’s (plus the crowds) mortified horror, and Wapanzi embarrassment, Ruddy extended a hoof and pinched the undead stallion’s cheek. “Isn’t he just a darling?

Wapanzi let out a groan as he rubbed at his cheek. “Mom, please do-”

“And I raised him all by myself!”

As one creature, the entire store groaned from the bottom of their pained souls. It seemed that bat-ponies truly were creatures of darkness and horror, after all.

Sighing at once more hearing the joke, Wapanzi leaned back and rummaged in his saddlebags. “Here, you crazy old coot,” he said, handing over two plain envelopes of fine paper. “No idea what the fuss is about, but it was apparently important.”

Using the thumb-claw on her wing like a pen-knife, Ruddy flicked off the seal —a stylized flame on red wax, and shook upon the ash and smoke smelling letter. It read, in a fine if on several places smudged hand:

Dearest Ruddy Dawn.

It is as my mixed blessing to inform you that we have received inquiries about you from the Equestrian government.

We do not as of yet have any inkling as of why other than that it is apparently not a legal matter.

Given Our previous grievances with the Equestrian Government, We wish to remind you that as a legal citizen of Our lands, you are fully entitled to legal aid, or protection inside Our embassies.

Do NOT be waylaid by the insulting notion that the moon nag holds any claim on you, just because you are a bat-pony. If you wish to pursue that path, you are of course welcome as a free citizen to do so… but she has no more actual claim on you, then I of all the world’s flames.

I simply ask you to remember that.

Should it come to such, simply contact Our Embassy, and you will receive whatever aid We may grant, post-haste.

With My deepest wishes of Health and Luck.

~Empress Mganga, The Ever Burning.

With a frown, Ruddy stuffed the letter into her shadow to keep it safe, before continuing onto the next one.

It too smelled strangely, but of spring water and fresh snow, oddly enough. Fitting enough for a letter with a blue seal looking like a single drop of water, though.

Sup.

The two blithering, harmony obsessed idiots that think all the world’s ponies are theirs to command are at it again.

You get into any trouble from sun-butt or moon-brain, just show ‘em this note, and tell ‘em where they can shove it.

Didn’t care for poachers back when I was mortal, and I sure as dry-season ain’t gonna tolerate that type o’ crap now.

That means you, Nightmare Breath, or whatever you call yourself nowadays! Hooves of my bat-pony!

May Your Well Never Dry.

~Empress Maji.

PM, who’d had been shamelessly reading over Ruddy’s shoulder, carefully reattached her jaw. “...Wow.”

Ruddy chuckled happily as she stuffed the second letter in with the first. “Yeah... ‘The Crying Mother’ just loves decorum, alright!”

Wapanzi let out a neutral grunt, sidling over to a nearby sofa.

Ruddy happily patted PM on the back. “You two play nice now, you hear.” She leaned in and whispered. “If you ask really nice, he’ll nibble even on the first date!”

Without a further word, Ruddy darted out; leaving the two blushing ponies alone in the back-room.

“...Forgive mom,” Wapanzi hesitatingly offered after a few moments. “I think she just might have licked one toad too many during her days, but she means well.”

“...Toads?” PM hesitatingly asked, brow furrowed in confusion. “Why would you want to lick a toad?”

“If you have to ask, you probably don’t want to know.”

Not really knowing what to do when you were alone with your boss’ undead son, PM fidgeted and just went with what her instincts told her. “...Coffee?”

“Would be lovely, thank you…” the undead zebra said politely, fidgeting in the slightly too small couch.

On politeness autopilot, PM stumbled over and started looking for cups. “...So, do I dare ask what you think of your mom’s writing…?”

“I try for mom’s sake every time, but honestly? Nine out of ten of her books just give me nightmares.” Wapanzi stuck his tongue out in a grimace. “Don’t get me wrong, I love her, but there’s just something wrong in that mare’s head.”

PM blankly stared into the nearest wall at what she’d just heard; the now overfilled cup flowing all over the counter.

Wapanzi, meanwhile was curiously looking around. The last time he’d been allowed inside Equestria, ‘pa-per’ and ‘el-ec-tric-i-ty had been these newfangled technologies corrupting today's youth, so the stallion was naturally quite curious.

And then, a flash of gold caught his eye. Before PM could protest, an icy-blue aura had formed around the official looking note and floated over to him.

And naturally, he read it.

Then he read it again.

And again, just to make really sure.

Wapanzi has seen and done many things. As a messenger of the Royal Zebraven Post Office, how could he not have?

He’d delivered invoices to lich-kings as they plotted in their tombs. He had served summons to elder dragons, long forgotten by any mortal, as they slumbered upon their mountains of glittering gems.

He had, even before undeath, learned all his mother could teach him; atop her true back, even. Although sadly his talents had not been enough for a more savory way to immortality, Wapanzi could still measure himself against near any mortal in the field of the arcane.

He had walked under the frozen ice of the long forgotten seas of The Frozen North; looking up to see sheets of ice thicker than even dragons could dig through. There were deserts, upon which he had left a trail of moisture that barely had time to sizzle before being gone.

“...Oh, buck,” he quietly swore to himself. The forgotten note drifting away and onto the floor.

And right now, he would have rather delivered a castle to the moon with nothing but a spoon, then walk out into the same room as his mom was about to explode in.

Trying to not make a sound, Wapanzi carefully climbed over and hid behind the sofa.

PM, not quite believing what she was seeing, just blurted out the obvious question. “…What are you doing?”

“Mom is about to go spare. So I’m hiding behind this sofa.” A single striped hoof rose, and beckoned her over. “Room for two, just saying.”

PM was about to protest… but then she remembered the near demonic sounding voice on the phone whenever Ruddy woke up cranky. “Move over,” she stated, all but diving after Wapanzi.

Forgotten on the floor, the oh so innocent looking letter lay.

Dear PM, We have heard your worry about your friend, and We have mixed news.

The bad, is that indeed, she has at least in part been less than honest with you.

The good, however, is that We have checked the Equestrian birth-archives, and the magical signature on the lock of hair you provided does indeed match Ruddy Dawn, the bat-pony.

Ruddy Dawn the bat-pony, born in the —sadly lost, coven of Glimmer Rock, under what is today Canterlot Mountain.

Over one thousand and one hundred years ago!

We will need to make sure she has not achieved this longevity by any foul means, but even so, this would put her as one of the few ponies alive today that remember a time before the Everfree.

My sister and I will make arrangements and arrive to test her as soon as possible.

Needless to say, do not tell Ruddy this.

But who knows, perhaps We might have found a worthy student of my own?

~Luna, Princess of the Night, Moon and Stars.

“...Look.” PM gently poked Wapanzi in the side, not sure how to feel about how soft his pelt was. “Even being scouted for the position of one of the Princesses personal student is a great honor, right?” The mare fidgeted for a moment. “...As long as it doesn’t turn out she’s secretly a vampony or something, things should turn out good, right?”

Wapanzi just gave the mare a thousand yard stare for a few moments. “...Do you know why bat-ponies are rarer around here, than a legal virgin in Las Pegasus, Miss?”

“...No?”

“Because the patron they used to worship the ground upon which she walked on had a freak-out about not being liked enough.” Wapanzi picked up a pillow, and gently bent it around his ears. “And most of the survivors didn’t exactly care much for Luna anymore once they could stop running.

For a moment, PM balked.

“Now, does that offer still sound like something a thousand year plus old archmage is likely to react well to?”

Without a word, PM followed Wapanzi’s example with a pillow of her own. “...When you say archmage…”

“Mom tried to teach me age spells when I was ten. I have no idea how she does it, but spells are just… like reading from a flippin’ cookbook for her.

PM was just about to protest that that was the dumbest thing she’d ever heard… when somepony suddenly exploded.

Exploded, in the Royal Canterlot Voice, but with a thick Zebraven accent. “WHAT!? YOU DARE ASK ME THAT?! AFTER YOU’RE DAMNED TEMPER TANTRUM NEARLY KILLED MY ENTIRE RACE?!”

Luckily, inside the back room there wasn’t much glass… but the coffee-pot exploded into shimmering dust from the volume.

A loud gasp cut the air in response. “TEMPER TANTRUM?! YOU DARE CALL MY MADNESS A TEMPER TANTRUM?!”

“OH?! AND YOU’LL DO WHAT IF I DO?! GO AND SULK ON THE MOON FOR ANOTHER THOUSAND YEARS, OR SOMETHING?!”

PM gently lowered herself as far down to the floor as she could, and pressed the cushion even harder against her now aching ears. “...I think we’re going to need a bigger sofa.”

Wapanzi didn’t answer, he just stuck his hoof into his mouth; rocking back and forth, while he tried to resist the urge to pray to mommy.

Another unnaturally loud gasp tore through the air. SULK?!! I DID NOT SULK!”

“WELL, YOU SURE WEREN’T GETTING ANY BEAUTY SLEEP WITH THAT UGLY MUG!”

It simply seemed like it wouldn’t be very constructive this once.

Author's Note:

For the record? I am a The Witcher fan, but aside from the name, the Drowned Dead in this fic shares no relation with those. These Drowned Dead are more like liches with a tie to water and ice.

(And a homebrewed variant at that that will be elaborated on later. Just in case any mythology or D&D buffs start tearing their hair out.)

I personally don’t think so, but let me know if the mere presence of undead and necromancy in this story makes you think it now deserves the Dark tag. I’m going for more a culture clash thing and this chapter is about as graphical and detailed as the stuff will get, but I thought I’d ask.

Oh, and just for the obvious joke:

I know, I know… ‘It lives!’ I guess.

To be fair, though, this is the third attempt at this chapter. The weird mix of tones you guys seemed to like so much is just really damn hard to nail intentionally. Think I managed it again, but I’ll let you guys be the ultimate judges on that.

A special shout-out to a reader earthrise, who had this to say on chapter one, though:

“I enjoyed it, but honestly I'm more interested in what he/she is doing after this chapter than before it. We get the gist of the past anyway in this chapter, and it seems to me this story would work better focusing on the future. Not to say a couple of minor flashbacks would be out of place, but flashbacks, especially long flashbacks are rather overused on this site. Honestly if it does focus entirely on the past from now on I'll probably unfavorite it, but I guess we'll see.
TLDR: Nice intro, please don't in medias res.”

Because, you see, that was actually the plan to start with. But once it was pointed out, I realized just how common endless freaking flashbacks are in this subgenre, and I’ve made an attempt to move ever-forward to avoid it instead.

Without that comment, this whole chapter would have been very different, and I just want to say thanks. Even if it took much, much, much longer, I think the end-result speaks for itself.

Just thought he/you guys might want to know that feedback sometimes makes a huge difference, so keep posting those comments.

Oh, and the eight - midnight - nine time-thing in chapter one? Totally a mistake on my part, but I’ve figured out a in-story solution for it, so it stays.

Expect an explanation in a coming chapter, but I thought I’d say it now so everybody knows I’ve noticed.

Oh, and it’s a personal goal of mine for Wapanzi to have outshone Derpy as the mail-’mare’ of choice for at least a few of you when this fic is over. Lofty goals, yes, but you might as well aim for the stars, right?.

And I’ll be posting the failed chapters as a (unedited) bonus, so tune in tomorrow and the day after that to see me shamelessly game the system show and comment on what might have been, and why it wasn’t!