• Published 1st Oct 2014
  • 3,104 Views, 414 Comments

Story Shuffle - FanOfMostEverything


Thirty-one one-shots inspired by thirty-one random Magic cards.

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7
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In the Details

They met in an empty field, far from civilization. Only the countless stars bore witness as they prepared their grim offering. It was terribly bad luck to perform the ritual under the jealous gaze of the Mare in the Moon.

They themselves were anonymous, deliberately so. Their hooded cloaks hid all signs of tribe or destiny. The darkness reduced any visible hair to monochrome uncertainty. They had planned this without seeing one another, through notes left in safety deposit boxes, codes in newspaper editorials, even a few imps called out of Tartarus as a last resort.

All that led to tonight's gathering, and now they would be calling up a being far greater than an imp. A circle of grass had been cleared away by those who had come earlier. Now, they drew there a design of sharp angles in black sand. Once the last connection was made, the shape flared with heat, fusing into glass. Two of their number walked into the center of the design carrying a heavy sack, filled with a shifting weight. They deposited it there, and returned to the group with all haste.

One stepped forward, the hem of his robe trimmed in something that glittered in the starlight. "Hear me, great one!" he cried. "We gather in your name! We sacrifice in your name! Let the smoke of this offering be the key that frees you from your hated prison, that we may honor you!"

Another held in one foreleg a torch that burned with an unnatural flame, one that shed heat but not light. Once it touched the lumpy bundle, the new flames were of the common sort, and they crackled merrily over the burlap and what laid within.

Smoke rose and writhed, dancing on an unearthly wind. The flames billowed and cavorted in unearthly glee. And just as it seemed that the blaze would snatch at those who dared start it, it imploded.

The congregation was silent. The creature at their center, a serpentine thing with the arms of a minotaur, whose skin glowed with abyssal runes, was not. "Those were first editions." The voice was cool, almost disinterested save for the hint of chastisement.

The summoner knelt before the beast. "Lord, we have called you here to—"

"I know." Now the weight of apathy had well and truly settled onto the demon's voice. "If you knew enough to summon me, then you know that I knew your purpose the moment I felt your spell pull me out of Tartarus." It heaved a sigh. "Still, decorum must be observed. Speak your question."

A few ponies shifted uneasily. This wasn't quite how they'd imagined their lord and master. Still, the leader pressed on. "Oh awesome Laplace, unquestionable Algorithm of Fate, how do we destroy the hated sun tyrant and give this land to its rightful rulers?"

There it was. The question that burned in the heart of every mare and stallion present, as hot and fierce as the pyre that had called the demon to this world. Their lives hinged on the answer. None spoke. None breathed.

"You don't."

"What!?" The leader's cry was echoed by a few others, who gasped and cowered as their fellows edged out of the likely blast radius.

"You don't," repeated Laplace. "I extrapolated the activities of every pony here to the moment of his or her death, and an hour afterwards for the sake of thoroughness. None of you even inconvenience Celestia, much less have a chance of destroying her."

The leader fell to his haunches. "But... but then... Is she truly unbeatable?"

"No." The demon examined its claws. "Phrasing is important. You didn't ask how one could destroy Celestia. You asked how you would destroy her. So I looked to see how you would, and found you didn't."

"Oh." The pony gave a laugh that wasn't entirely sane. "Well, if that's all, then—"

"You have asked your three questions, cultist. I am not bound to answer any more, neither by magic nor by fate." Laplace moved closer, so the leader could see the demon's slit pupils and smell its strangely spiced breath. "However," and here its apathy was tinted by annoyance, "know that calling me again will not give you more answers. You know me by one name. Hear others. Rightly am I called the Puppet of Predestination, the Actor and the Stage. Knowing everything is a terrible burden, for I look upon the future with cockatrice's eyes, freezing infinite possibility into incontrovertible certainty. Even now, I say these words not because I choose to, but because I see that I must."

Some small part the cultist not consumed by terror noted that the demon was all but constricting him. "And now," continued Laplace, "by your request, you share my burden. By examining your fate, I have sealed it. You will not win. Your efforts are guaranteed to fail. If anything, it's only going to get worse for you. Make note of that."

Laplace then vanished in a massive, choking burst of smoke. The stallion scrambled to his hooves, his mind unsure whether to hold his breath or hyperventilate.

Once he collected himself, he saw that he was almost alone. The flattened grass told of panicked ponies fleeing in all directions. Only one other remained, a stallion whose robe could not hide his truly stupendous bulk. "Same time next week, boss?"

The leader didn't hear him, focused as he was on gathering his fear-scattered thoughts. Then, the proud fool echoed generations of demonologists who sought insight from the demon Laplace.

"Phooey."

Author's Note:

Yes, an omniscient demon named Laplace. Yes, there's a peerless telekinetic down there named Maxwell. No, I'm not sorry. It's my birthday, and my gift to myself is puns.