• Published 15th Oct 2014
  • 1,273 Views, 54 Comments

Conflagration: Contagion - GearMane



The once human and now pony mare, tries to find both meaning and trust months after her arrival.

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Travel

Author's Note:

This has been done for a few weeks now, just haven't gotten around to editing it till now.

Why? Why did I do that? Anya asked herself. Before even opening her eyes she knew it was going to be a terrible day. When she did, regret filled her eyes.

She hadn't even made it to the couch. Slumped over on the weathered porch, her stomach and fore-hooves covered in what could only be bile sickened her. She wasn't even capable of getting the to couch the backwoods pony had offered her. Everything ached, sleeping in such a bizarre position had threw her back out and the beginnings of a cramp started in her leg.

Anya didn't feel like stretching, she just wanted to fall back asleep until this damned headache was gone. Unicorns and headaches, they were like the sun and light. There was a reason Twilight didn't keep any alcohol around. It was enough to deal with them without a hangover. She groaned in pain.

"Ah! Ya's up!" Didley's voice screeched in an all to pleasant tone.

Anya groaned again to look through blurry eyes for her things. He probably wanted her to leave soon.

"What a night," she could hear the smile in his voice. "Ya should come take a dip in the springs. It'll put some push back into your hooves."

"I could use some coffee." she groaned.

"Some what now? Nah, come take a dip. Fix ya right up." the elderly stallion gave her a good shove with his hoof. "Also, ya need to wash that fun off yourself."

That's right. No one here knew what coffee was. She had tried to describe it to Twilight once, her substitute was quite stomach churning. There had to be something close to coffee somewhere, a plant that bore energizing pods that could be roasted. Canterlot might have something, they had to. Fuck, Canterlot.

"I should get going, got alot of ground to cover."

"Nah, one last thing. Come on." he waved a hoof. Anya rolled her eyes and began to follow.

Before entering the pool the mare had splashed water on herself and began to clean the sick from her forelegs and chest. The matted fur smelled like the spiced alcohol from last night, completely ruining any chance she had of drinking it again, the odors of vomit and booze now intertwined as one.

The springs were warm, at least this one was. It felt like a hot tub without the horrible smell of chlorine. Didley was right, it did feel good. Anya sunk down into the water until only the top portion of her head was above the water. A warm tingle seeped into every inch of her, going directly into her bones and warming her muscles like fire.

It was the feeling of carelessness, the bliss of sleep while wide awake and the warm massage of a talented set of hands. It was going to be hard to leave, but the sun was already nearing the center of the sky, so much time had been wasted already.

Didley had walked back to the house after showing her the springs. After pulling herself from the warmth and comfort, Anya headed back that way slowly. Wheat from the neighboring field had managed to spread a few seeds into the woods, growing wild and untamed in patches, it provided a filling breakfast, if not lunch at this time of day.

She retrieved her satchel and listened to the ramblings on how ponies had gotten so busy with everything else they didn't take time out to rest anymore, and thus the springs suffered with attendance. Didley was sad to see her leave, the first pony that had come around for as long as he could remember. Anya didn't know if she would be back in truth, but she wanted to return at some point.

It was ten in the morning before she was on the road again. Vigor had returned to her stride and was making good time. A quick look at the map showed her she was twenty leagues out, or roughly eighty miles. A bit more than a tenth of the way. At this rate, it would be over a week until she arrived in Canterlot.

The road had become a bit overgrown at what she could tell was roughly three in the afternoon. The fields of wheat had vanished as she entered the beginnings of the foot hills of the mountains. Trees grew over the path, what weeds would grow in the lack of sun dotted the dirt road. Good thing she had grabbed a swath of wheat for dinner, as none of these plants looked appetizing at all.

At first she thought it was wrong, stealing from the field. Then a thought entered her mind, an obscure fact from history class. Back when the Roman Empire was expanding, they had law. That the first six feet of every field from the road was fair game for travelers. Inns, cities and places to stay were sparse back then, leaving one on the road for weeks, and no one was able to carry that much food on them. With as sparse as the town were out here, it was a safe bet that the same law, or general feeling towards travelers applied.

Sitting down on the side of the road, Anya planned out where she was going to sleep before the sun went down. The largest town on her route was Cloudsdale and a non-pegasus city named Cloudsdale Minor. It looked built on the mountain top at the edge of the Unicorn range, west of Canterlot. But that was at least three days away, two if she ran full bore. That was something she wanted to see! A city in the sky.

She scoured the map for somewhere to stay. Mentally whipping herself with the realization that if she left earlier, when the sun rose, she would be on the outskirts of Oretin already. It was a small town centered around a mine, had several houses, a lodge and a service track that ran parallel to the main line for carting whatever was pulled from the ground for processing elsewhere.

Fatigue was beginning to set in once the sun cast it's last rays of light over the horizon. The days had begun to grow shorter and shorter. She had arrived in the mid-summer, and by now it was the pony equivalent of mid September. Honestly the seasons were odd, Ponies kick starting each as they needed to be. It was reliable however, today was going be warm, tomorrow was going to be warm. The entire world she traveled felt like a thermostat at a constant setting, varying a little bit here and there.

Anya felt capable of a few more hours of travel. The thought of stopping along the road and sleeping there gave her the chills. The Everfree had been an unsettling place, not even a fallout bunker encased in cement would make her feel safe there. The air was foul and her spine shivered there. The feeling here was different, a human fear of things lurking in the shadows. A slow rolling wind passing through the leaves did not help this fear at all.

She removed the studding ring and began to feel out her surroundings while slowly moving forward. Anya was in the blind, trying to run a detection spell. Instead she began to feel each tree, recognizing them as what they were. The grass was next, and then the oddities, dirt, mushrooms and even let her mind wander to herself.

In her vision, a light started to cast off her body. Immediately she stopped, fearing that she had started a fire. her heart thumped in her skull as she waited for a few minutes. The silent glow died down, leaving her confused as to what happened. After a time she tried again, feeling herself and found the same glow coming off of her body. It didn't light up the road or the trees, but merely herself, her form. Could she have detected... herself? She would need to find another living thing and try to feel that as well, see if it glowed too.

It was near midnight and Anya was beat. The road no longer had slow slopes, but was angling upwards and winding back on itself. She was in the foothills now, or did they call them hoof hills? Either way the incline was beating the hell out her legs. It would be another twenty miles to Oretin, there was no way she was going to make it tonight. Not with the weakness in her muscles and on four sore hooves.

She grumbled, the pace slowed to a shuffle as the mare began to look around in the moonlight for somewhere to stay. Trees rocks and the occasional small field, nowhere looked habitable. Thoughts of avoiding the family camping trip now seemed like a bad idea, even worse when she realized she didn't have a tent or a blanket at all. There was a grouping of rocks in gravel off the side of the road. It was going to have to do. It offered some wind protection, but not much else.

Anya gathered sticks fallen logs from the ground near the receding treeline in addition to more than an arm load of tall grass. She spread the grass between two rocks and placed the sticks and wood into a pile, well away from the grass and focused on them with her mind, calling upon her horn to do the deed. They burst into flames in an instant. It was the first time she had been able to start a fire intentionally and in the place where she wanted it.

A smile crept across her muzzle, a flood of warmth spread through her skull and her heart rate began to increase. It was undeniable that it felt good, why it did was foreign to her. Anya just stared into the fire on the makeshift bed of grass, watching it dance across the glowing wood as it consumed it.

She reached out, edging a hoof closer and closer to the warmth. As she did, the flames turned from a golden orange and yellow into a deep blue, the wood hissing in protest as all of it's energy was being pulled from the fibers. Her hoof touched the bed of coals, but wasn't injured.

The fire burnt with the brilliance of the sun, a white hot that sent clear shadows across the road. From miles away it looked as if a star from the sky was placed on the hillside. In a powerful flash as the entire amount of stored energy in the wood was brought out in a blinding nova. It was a warmth she had never felt before, and was content only when she drew it within herself.

A shiver of pleasure ran down her skull, sending a brilliant warmth to every corner of her body. She could feel it's power within her, edging away the chill that had been building. Yes, this was what she needed. The fatigue had vanished and was replaced with an endless well of energy. Anya cooed in delight, one that ended abruptly when she realized the brilliant fire had faded into a pile of fine back ash, no trace of warmth inside it at all.

The world began to glow around her, everything began to shine from deep within it's core. The ground was an ember orange, the trees a stark yellow and the sky itself burned white. There wasn't anything she couldn't feel. The valley below lit up as if under the brightest sun. She lifted the soot covered hoof from the pit and stood up.

Around the ground she could see brilliant white spots, mice scurrying about in the fields. The sky was filled with more dots, not stars but bats and owls. Pinpricks of insects and moths buzzed lazily about. It was euphoria, she could feel the power within all of it, she could take it as her own, it just needed to be coaxed out. And she knew how to do it.

The dream state started to end, the shine started to simmer down as the brilliantly lit world faded back into blue moonlight. Brought from her catatonic state, Anya recoiled in horror. This was something new, and the feelings that came with it slurring her mind with a powerful sludge. She... she saw everything for what it was, and wanted it. Wanted all of that energy inside her. If the fire felt as pleasing as it did, imagine then entire valley in flames. The entire valley under her control, energy for her to feed from.

NO! Not that. She wouldn't fall into what Ember did. She wouldn't do that, she COULDN'T. What would that mean for Twilight, another host repeating the same thing. It would kill her, or even worse break her mind down into nothing. She couldn't do that, make Twilight re-live it.

Think of something other than the chemical release it gave her. Think of anything but the warmth, the glow and the power coursing through her body. The noose. Oh Christ, that was horrible. Her throat closed up as she swallowed, the unfriendly blush of red that turned into purple over time, the pressure in her skull and the wrenching tightness around her neck. That was enough, her legs began to quiver as she remembered climbing those stairs, hooded in a black bag.

Ember's body, her body, was really fucked up. She knew that she needed help, or guidance as to what this was, why it was so pleasant. With ragged breath she collected more logs, started another fire and sat the studding ring tightly on her horn as she turned away from it. A second 'helping' of whatever that was could end in tragedy. She chewed a mouthful of the wheat heads and added the stalks to the bedding.

The fatigue returned and she closed her heavy eye lids. A tear escaped and ran down her cheek. Anya began shivering in fear, she didn't want to disappoint Twilight. It took enough to convince her once she wasn't Ember. The second time wouldn't be possible, and a second round at the gallows... Celestia... Help.


"Hey." A voice called to her.

Anya stirred from her sleep, "Yea, show me the exit from the park." she moaned, rolling half awake onto her hooves. Wait, she wasn't in that park, that was a few days ago.

"Are you OK dude?" The male voice asked.

Anya rubbed her eyes with a hoof, smearing ashes all over her face. "Yea I'm fine, what is it?" The blurry blue shape didn't respond, rather sound like he was choking.

"Are you ok? You sound-" she stopped as her vision cleared. Standing before her was a light blue pegasus, with all the colors of the rainbow in his short cut mane and tail. Anya took another look up and down his body, not believing what she saw.

"Are you..." she paused as he emitted the choking sounds, now sitting on the ground, both front hooved pressed against his muzzle, cheeks showing red. "Rainbow-"

"OH MY GOSH, I can't hold it in anymore! You look like a raccoon!" the pegasus let loose with an energetic laugh, nearly collapsing to the ground.

"What?" Anya blushed, stricken by confusion and a very attractive Rainbow Dude.

"Don't tell me!" he blurbed out between laughing gasps, "Rarity said that make-up looked good on you?"

"Make up-" Anya's eyes widened, just realizing that she had ground soot across her face from a dirty hoof. She let out a small infectious giggle herself and retrieved the canteen to wash herself.

Rainbow's laugh stifled into a giggle, wiping tears from his face. "It looks good on you!"

Anya couldn't respond. She was alight with honor to be in front of Rainbow Dash, whatever gender he was in this incarnation of pony. From a pony's perspective, he was very attractive and anytime he wanted he could put-

"Are you ok though? It looks like you were crying last night. Did somepony not leave a message after a good night?" He grinned and gave her shoulder a little nudge.

"No-no. It was... nothing really. Just afraid." She hesitated. Anya was afraid of herself, but Rainbow would think she was a little wimp for saying that.

"Sounds lame. There's nothing to be afraid of out here. No monsters from Ponyville to Canterlot." he stretched a hoof towards Ponyville and Canterlot.

"So you are he- I mean him. The one and only, the most awesomest pegasus in all of Equestria. Rainbow-"

"Yes, yes! Please, you are embarrassing me." he chuckled nervously while scratching the back of his head and looking at the ground.

A bit of light was brought back into her world. Anya had met THE Rainbow Dash. He was quite the looker as well. Stars felt as if they were floating through her eyes, but were soon replaced with the fact that she had a long way to travel. If Rainbow was to travel with her for a while, she would not complain, looking up as he flew beside her, seeing his-

"I came out here to check out that light from last night. The patrolling pegasus said it looked like an explosion, but didn't want to check on it until morning. Buncha wusses."

"Oh. That was me. I am really good at creating fires..." Anya trailed off. He was going to know exactly who she was in an instant.

"Awesome!" He grinned, whipping open his wings and taking to the sky to do a loop. "Can you do it again! I want to see THAT!"

"I- uh. It was a bit too much last night. I was afraid I'd set the whole forest on fire. I don't want to do that." Anya explained, turning her attention to the smoldering fire from the previous night. She kicked a hoof to spread dirt across the coals to extinguish it.

"I'm Anya by the way."

"Cool. So, where are you headed?"

"Canterlot. Thought I'd walk there from Ponyville." Anya said flatly, she just wanted to stay away from talking about the fire last night. She pulled the map out and began to focus attention to it. Anything to draw attention away from Rainbow.

She was averaging twenty leagues a day. It was going to take the better part of a two weeks to get to Canterlot. But... Cloudsdale was seventy Leagues from Ponyville and she was already forty into that journey. From there she could catch the train to Canterlot. That sounded like a much more sound plan.

Walking that far was a bit of a large bite. First time she got to be alone and see with world and she was ready to take the easy route. It was less exciting than she had thought. She half expected the road to be lively, pair up with a random pony traveling with her. Spend the days talking as they traveled. It was quite the opposite, just her and her thoughts.

"Canterlot. Jeeze, that's a stiff walk for a unicorn."

Was that just... pony racism, or species-ism? Each type was supposed to have a different endurance. Earth ponies were on their hooves all day, doing physical work. Unicorns used magic most of the time and Pegasus tended to fly all over.

"I guess. I haven't seen much of the world and I want to explore it for myself." she shrugged, letting the unicorn comment slide. Truth was it didn't mean much to her, they were all ponies after all.

"Not much to see but farmland and mountains. See one boring field, you have seen them all. Even Cloudsdale is meh. I mean, yea, city on the clouds is great. But that looses it's cool factor almost immediately." Rainbow shrugged.

"But that is the magical stuff I want to see! I mean, I have not seen a pegasus flying up close before, makes me wish I had wings."

"Then just look at me for a while," Rainbow started to flex his muscles comically "Cause there ain't no awesomer thing anywhere."

Anya giggled lightly, realizing that it was possible Rainbow was flirting with her. And she was completely OK with that, but was completely not OK with the fact that she was OK with that. Christ, this was starting to sound like an incompetent writer shipping her with Rainbow.

No, she wasn't going to do that. None of the popular named ponies were going to be with her. Shipping and OC injection was the worst thing ever. She had bigger problems right now, mainly finding out where to go next and what was wrong with her body before she even thought about settling into whatever was 'normal' here.

Oretin was about an hour away, a quick look to the sky told her that it was early, possibly before nine. She could make it there by noon, definitely.

"I have a long road ahead of me. Did... did you want to keep me company?" Anya asked, hopeful that Rainbow would say yes.

"Naw. I like to move at my own pace, and no offense, but flying slow or walking isn't my speed. I'll see about finding you in Canterlot in a month, maybe I can buy you some dinner?" Rainbow grinned, winking an eyebrow at her.

"Oh," Anya was taken back. Rainbow was hitting on her, or just joking. It was hard to tell what he meant. "I guess." she grinned sheepishly. "I'm thinking on catching a train at Cloudsdale though."

"Ok, well, I gotta go then. Catch you around Anya." Rainbow grinned. In an instant his wings pushed a large volume of air and sped off to the sky, leaving her sight in several seconds.

Wow, he was fast. And a cock tease as well, the male version of a cock tease. A plot tease. Or maybe that was just Rainbow being Rainbow and any covert sexual reference she was getting was just the remnants of her over sexualized humanity. Funny thing that, sexuality. She'd stared at alot of pony flesh in the three months she had been here, it was unavoidable as most of them were 'naked'. But it did nothing for her, at least her body, as it adapted to become numb to any arousing thoughts.

In all honesty, she didn't want to experience heat. A year of nothing, then a few weeks of being on fire... Not looking forward to that. In fact, being disconnected from a sexual drive made her realize how shallow and pedantic such thoughts were. Humans- she had made it a ritual, something to do because it felt good. It's repetition had taken the fun out of it and abstaining put the act into the light of it's importance. Procreation, above all. It did feel amazing though, it had to. Who would want to procreate if it just meant getting hot and sweaty without feeling euphoria?

With the futility of arousing thoughts failing her, Anya waved to the clouds where Rainbow had disappeared into. He was as self infatuated as ever, other than the gender swap, Rainbow was still Rainbow, from what she could tell anyway.

Anya double checked the fire cautiously. Even studded it may have an effect on her, but it was out cold. She readied her satchel, had a light breakfast and continued up the road into the hills towards the Unicorn Mountain range. A mental check had her at Oretin at noon and a small town near the summit at nightfall. She was looking forward to a bed, as the two nights previous she slept outside.


Time on the road let her think. There wasn't much to do but put each hoof forward to advance. As the woods thinned to a remote treeline and eventually just lone pines, at least they look like pine trees, became scarce. The road became rough, blending into the ground that was equal part rocks and gravel. The wagon wheel tracks grooving the 'road' were the only indication that she was still on track.

Anya thought about Rainbow coming onto her and what that meant for her future here. Her sustainability to have something 'normal'. Everything she had learned aside from mathematics and the ability to speak and read became useless the second she arrived. It didn't matter what job or experience she held back on Earth, it amounted to a hill of sand here.

Motors and communications were primitive in their own regards, relying on magic most of the time to operate. Computers didn't exist, everything was typewriters or pencil and paper. For what ever reason, a typewriter with six keys was able to discern what letter to print. Twilight said it was all about where one applied pressure on those keys, that's how it knew what to type. But she was a unicorn, no need for those. Still, everything she knew meant near nothing here.

A grey depression washed over her, realizing that she was at square one. At some point she would have to take this body's old role as Arch Mage of Alteration, but right now that didn't mean anything. It was a long road back there, as she needed to master everything Ember knew. It still left her in the wind, with no direction.

Part of her problem was that of most dreams in regards to pony-world. That one enters Equestria, befriends the main cast and goes on wild adventures with them, or have sex. So far she was one for three, and the last option was unappealing at this moment in time. With as stark as reality was here in comparison to Earth, a wild adventure probably had them seeing broken bones and battle scars. It was a hollow hope that she would see something akin to a season finale, but would settle for some grand... thing to happen.

Still. What could she do? Arch Mage sounded like a responsibility, a duty more than a job. Still, Ember seemed pretty stable. Her house had many lavish decorations she hadn't seen outside that house, even though now they were ash. Maybe that was how work went here, do what you are good at and want for nothing, outside of fantasies. Twilight never got any bits for the rental of books, but she always had some to spend. Anya just didn't understand how work and payment went.

If Apple Jack hadn't offered her a job, which she may not be capable of, what could she do to make money to feed herself and put a roof over her head? Being exposed to a different culture and not having to worry about copy write laws, the options seemed endless. So many hours of television, watching trash movies and shows were an endless well to draw from, but might not go over well here.

From a historical perspective, there was a wealth of information in her head. Unfortunately it was all stories that were interesting relative to humans. The fantasy lands of wizards and unicorns, world ending villains and bizarre characters. In Equestria, these fantastic elements were a part of everyday life. All boiled down, there was nothing in her head worth trying to recreate here.

A fire fighter! That was something she could do with ease! She could already take all of the fight out of a fire, and what better way to put her body's alignment with it to actual good use. No, no no no... Last night was a wake up call and until she was able to better understand herself, she couldn't do that again. At least not until she understood was was wrong with her.

Anya sighed. Thinking about what she was going to do was depressing, considering her lack of skills. For right now she was just going to get to Canterlot, nothing else. She'd get a new direction to go in, if that was what Celestia wanted her to do. Then she'd make AJ's job offer work. It would be a change, something normal she was used to. Work like normal and begin to experiment, find out what she was good at here. Nothing more for now. Simple, to the point and flexible.

God, Ember was a lazy pony. It was just over two and a half days and roughly forty five leagues into the journey and she was already suffering from muscle fatigue. Perhaps there was something to the species variations. A quick calculation had her covering roughly a hundred and sixty miles.

Anya had to stop at that realization. One hundred and sixty miles. Never in her life did she think that she would embark on a journey like this. That was three hours in a car, nothing to be bothered about back on earth. That was a major milestone and found herself smiling. The fact that she had walked that far in a short amount of time was an achievement in itself and with that glow she felt a bit of energy return and started uphill again.

Oretin was close, still up the hill a ways, but the sounds of shouting voices and grinding of metal reached her ears on the wind. It was faint, barely discernible if your attention wasn't focused on it, but she heard it. Lunch with miner ponies, it actually sounded interesting.

After twenty minutes of walking, Anya finally arrived to find the town rather run down. Several houses on the outskirts had collapsed and those that survived were in a state of neglect. The noises she heard were windmills grinding out the rust that had replaced the grease and flocks of birds that had roosted in the houses, chirping and singing. At a distance they sounded like voices, but up close it was just the birds.

Instead of poking about, Anya just trotted with a quick pace through the center of town. The large entrance to the mine was visible from most of the town. A massive carved stone archway, large enough to pass a train engine through. It would have been interesting to take a peek inside, but the derelict town had an ominous presence. With all of the supernatural things around Equestria anyway, it might be pushing it to explore such a place.

As she continued up the hill, she wondered the validity of the map. Some of the homesteads she had passed earlier in the journey were not marked. Hopefully the small town at the summit was there. The sun was beginning to drop lower in the sky and being on top of the large hill in another abandoned town was not her idea of a good night's rest.

Luckily her fears were abated when she reached the top of the hill. Exhausted, hungry and just flat worn out, the last light of the sun let her see the simple shapes of buildings with a soft glow from the windows. The town didn't appear to have a name and the buildings looked to be built recently.

She found a small lodge, an Equestria Motel 6. The mare at the desk was pleasant, but the days of walking had done their damage on Anya. She was just looking for someplace to lay down for the night. Paying a single bit for the room, dinner included, the mare went inside to find it disappointing.

Anya half expected to see a television, a tiny coffee maker and a fresh made bed with old sheets that looked dodgey as to whether or not they had really had been cleaned. Hotel stigma.

Instead she found a simple bed, a small nightstand and an old-school bathing tub in the corner. She deposited her satchel and canteen on the nightstand and slipped into the bed. Tomorrow there would be time to chart her course.

As she was drifting off into a deep sleep, she heard the attendant bring in dinner and place it on the nightstand. It would be breakfast tomorrow. For now she just needed sleep.