• Published 15th Oct 2014
  • 1,270 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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Another

Ohh... Celestia... Every morning was beginning to feel the same. Last night it was booze, as the night before. Today was just the weariness of the journey catching up to her, the two hundred miles she had traveled on hoof. From the moment Anya rolled out of bed she felt the stiffness ring hard in all appendages. A calf-like burning in her front legs felt odd as she walked to the small spear like porcelain toilet. It looked like a stretched urinal that one backs up to, the cold tongue passing between her thighs and soon the business was done.

Over the breakfast spread that was dinner from last night, the mare folded open the map AppleJack had given her. Down in the bottom right corner was a date stamp, 'CE: April, 2031', the faded letters read, as was the sky on the map that used to be blue. CE stood for Celestial Era, but the date meant nothing to her, it could have been 2077 for all she knew. One thing was certain, that the smaller towns on the map may not exist at all anymore, Oretin proved that.

The next big stop was Cloudsdale and Cloudsdale Minor. The town she was in now wasn't listed, but it was just at the peak, north of Oretin. Right now she was in the Unicorn Range mountains that sat west of Canterlot. From the rest of the mountains on the map these were not snow covered, but were on the eastern end of the range and lower in altitude than the others. She brought out her hoof, in an attempt to use a thumb to measure the legend to a length on a digit but laughed instead. A small piece of ribbon from the bit purse sufficed as well.

Cloudsdale was a day and a half away though hills and the valleys between there. Another small town was between the two and had an icon of a wineglass and grapes beside it, Cork. Considering last night's find, she would have to ask the attendant where would be best to stay later on that night, so she wouldn't wind up trying to get to Cloudsdale in the dark of night if Cork didn't exist.

Maybe buy a blanket or coat, the mountains before her weren't snow capped, but the leaves changing color on her journey was a sign the weather was sure to change. And here, the pegasus could change that in less than a day. Making decent time through the small mountains in fair weather only to be hindered by a swift chill that the pegasus would roll in.

Anya packed up what food was left from breakfast and made sure she had everything before leaving the room in search of a shop for some form of cold weather wear and advice on staying on Cork or pushing on through the night.


She was being followed.

Anya had an unshakable feeling that there was somepony behind her, watching her every move. Time and again she would turn and look but would never see anypony. Scouring the cloudless sky for a sneaking pegasus was just as fruitless. She couldn't shake the chill that ran up her spine, seen or not, there was somepony out there. A presence she couldn't explain but rather feel.

The feeling started when she left 'New' Oretin as she dubbed it. Nopony paid her any mind in the town and the shop keep was more than happy to part with a thick wool hooded cloak for a single bit. A pressing feeling that she had caught a tail made her wary, paranoia had her looking over her shoulder every few minutes.

There was nothing to back this feeling up but the knowledge that there were eyes on her. There was no sense of direction from the voyeur, rather it felt like it was coming from everywhere. It was just the pit in her stomach that was a cautionary tale as it twisted in knots. Thoughts of who or what it might be behind her began to swirl in her head.

The whole Ember ordeal was done. By order of the Princesses, she was not to be touched. Any problems she had were to be taken immediately to them, no matter how trivial or substantial. Now that she was away from Ponyville and the lording protection of Warden Twilight, she felt that she was fair game. Somepony with a grudge left to settle, sneaking up on her at night. She doubled her pace, intent to get to Cork before nightfall.

The road was nerve racking, the feeling wouldn't leave her. Anya wasn't able to focus on the scenery around her, just plod on ahead at a quickened pace while constantly pausing at random intervals to see if she could hear hoof steps. The frightened mare took off the ring around her horn, it would look bad to a bystander, but anything that came close to her would be ashed.

By the time she reached Cork, her nerves were frayed. Anya stepped into a side alley and put on the cloak she bought, pulling the hood up over her head and hid the satchel the best she could. An exit further down the alley should have slipped anypony following her.

Once further in town the feeling left her. Relieved, she was able to drop the hood and take in the sights.

Each building was a rough wooden log frame. The walls between them were different colored blues and rich, multi-colored stained glass windows adorned every house no matter the size. Signs littered the main street above doorways; Wagoner, Casks, a couple Inns and Restaurants. The streets were packed full of ponies that were hauling, moving or running about everywhere.

From the town's position in the valley Anya looked at both of the hills running parallel to it. One side bore a grove of what looked like small trees trained to grow sideways and stripped of leaves. The opposite was halfway stripped and swarming with an army of rainbow colored ponies who seemed to be working on a deadline to get the rest of the green mass of plants into carts that were zig-zagging down the hill then back up once emptied. It was an amazing sight to see as they moved about.

The streets were the same. The carts from the hill with gaily painted logos being hauled into large wooden structures, unloaded and then back up to the hill. Ponies carrying bags, casks, papers and all manor of goods scrambling between each other to get where they were going made the streets hard to traverse. Eventually Anya made it into a rather busy inn and waited for the line to clear up.

"I'd like a room for the night." she said, tired of standing in line for what felt like an eternity.

"I'm sorry, we are all full." The dark grey pony with a candle in a brass holder as a cutie mark replied.

"Oh. Then can you point me to another inn?"

"I'm sorry miss. I own both Inns in this town and we are full to capacity."

Anya's muzzle twisted downward on one side, more in thought than in frustration. Tit for tat, tit for tat.

"What do I have to do?" she asked.

"Excuse me?" The receptionist asked.

"You have a couch over there in the lounge," the mare pointed to the large open area where some of the guests were sitting at the moment, conversing. "I can sleep there.

There was a momentary pause as the receptionist searched her mind.

"My father is harvesting the last of the grapes and in a rush before the pegasus push in the fall frost later on tonight. Give him a hoof and I can let you say on the couch. Tell him Votive sent you over."

"Where is he?" Anya asked, annoyed at the feeling that she was supposed to psychically divine where he was.

"He's probably on the side of the hill with all the commotion, shouting his lungs out." Votive sighed.

"Allright, thanks." Anya said while turning to go out the door.


God dammit.

Anya dragged herself into the hotel. Her chest was bruised and tender from the harness. Every leg ached with the acid burning of a workout gone to far and her entire body was covered in dirt. Pulling a cart wasn't as easy as the earth ponies made it look. She sputtered in the dirt for a while, hauling the hundred-some-odd pound cart was bad enough but load of grapes and leaves was worse. She just didn't have the strength to properly pull or stop the cart, leaving her hooves to fail and grind her body along the trodden path until it came to a stop.

Sure it was fun and games, unicorn hauling a cart, but when she ate shit on the ground, everypony came to help her. A good dose of ribbing for fun, but changed when she fell. After that she suggested to join the younger ponies at the drinking area and haul refreshments up to the stand, nopony said no to that.

Anya was beginning to think there was truth to the whole three different races of pony. The Earth ponies kept going and going, cart after cart and it wasn't just the stallions as even the mares were keeping up. She was beginning to understand the aversion to hard back breaking work everypony other than the earth ones had.

The sun had long since set and she dragged herself to the couch and passed out before she was even fully on it. The white cushioned became stained earth color, something she was going to have to deal with in the morning. If she didn't die in her sleep from exhaustion first.

"Twilight, leave me alone, I'm not in the mood today..." she grumbled through sleep heavy eyes. The commotion of the library was all around her, ponies milling about. Wait. She was in the hotel in Cork, the constant anguish of her mind turning to Twilight as an omen of ill content was beginning to worry her. She didn't want that.

"No, it's Votive. Are you allright?"

"Um... Yes. I am." Anya pressed her hooves under her to lift her from sleep and into a sitting pose. Her chest thumped in anguish from the past day and her hooves pulsed in a deep ache. Today was going to suck. "I'm sorry about the couch..." she mumbled half awake.

"It's fine. Most of the ponies here on business have gone already and it needed a good cleaning anyway. Can't remember the last time it was cleaned in all honesty." Votive smiled. "There's not much left from breakfast, some pancakes and grapes."

"Any bacon or sausage?" Anya jested from her drowsy state.

Votive went wide eyed. "You c-can't be serious." she gasped.

"It was a joke. What I could really use is some morphine." she had quelled the mare's horror as she stretched her limbs, hoping that fatigue would leave them soon.

"Some what?"

"Never mind, I'll eat some breakfast and be on my way."

Votive didn't say a word, merely nodded slowly in confusion and pointed to the dining area that was being cleaned at this hour in the late morning. Anya slowly lowered herself to the ground, grunting in a bit of pain and made her way through the doors.

"There is a bath out back, I suggest you use it afterwards." Votive said in a stern voice as she watched hoof prints of dirt form across the wooden floor, causing Anya to pause and tread more carefully.

Instead of dirtying up the chair and table, Anya instead grabbed what little pancakes were left and a half eaten vine of grapes then followed the signs above the doors to the bath house.

She settled into a wooden tub that looked like a cask for wine that had been halved for water, it's brother right beside it. The hot water felt good as it lifted the layer of dust from her back and began to dissolve the larger clumps that stuck to her underbelly and chest.

The water was deep enough to float in, leaving her hooves to barely touch the bottom as she nibbled on the food she brought with her. In all honesty she could have fallen asleep again right there. But after a quick dunk below the surface to completely clean herself she felt strength returning in a small portion. Strength enough to limp to Cloudsdale minor and get on a train. Then sleep for a month when she arrived in Canterlot.

Anya dried herself off, deposited the last of the grapes in her satchel and spread the map out on the cleared table. The biggest part of the journey behind her, now that she decided to skip the other half by riding on the rails to her destination. She would be in Cloudsdale Minor by nightfall at least.

She thanked Votive for the hospitality, apologized again about the couch and slipped the wool cloak she had bought once the frigid air nipped at her upon stepping hoof outside. It was warm and cloudless yesterday, today there was a gloomy grey cloud cover and a bitter nip on the wind. From picnic to snow plows in one day. Earth or Equestria, the smell of threatening snow was the same.

The chill of being tailed crept into her flank again, but was soon abated when she managed to catch up to a cart laden with wine barrels. They didn't mind that she tagged along, they were headed to the same destination as she was, from there they were headed southward to Las Pegasus.

Anya fell in stride with a light colored purple pony, his pink mane cut short so that it was more like a three inch mohawk that fanned out near the front, leaving only a tiny portion of his horn sticking out. His body was nearly covered with the same type of cloak she wore, obscuring his cutiemark and tail. She matched stride on his right and began a conversation to help pass the time.

"So, where are you headed?" She asked.

"Baltimare. The turning of the seasons means it's harvesting time." He replied with a smile.

"I've noticed that everypony is doing that, I guess it's that time of year." Anya stated, "What are you harvesting up there?"

"Alchemical ingredients for potions. The frost does something wonderful to the lichens and mushrooms in the outskirts of the city. Great for aching joints."

Anya remembered that Alchemy wasn't turning lead int gold, rather something like what medicine men did. Mix together plants and ingredients for salves and ointments, only here they were alot stronger because there was a bit of magic involved in everything. On par, it was no different medicine. Any pill was made from natural or synthesized materials, from the plants and trees, only in a more concentrated form.

"And that is what you do, make potions? How long have you been doing it?"

"Since I came here, to... Equestria. I wasn't raised here. Taught the art of Alchemy and Herb-lore from the zebra's. They have a connection to herbs and plants, not like ponies without wings or horns."

"Pegasus, Earth and Unicorns?" Anya asked, confused at the terminology he wasn't using.

"Is that what they are called?" he chuckled to himself.

"You are a unicorn." Anya stated, taking a second to stop and point at his horn.

"Yea, as much good as that does. I guess that all those years outside Equestria, I guess I didn't develop right." he shrugged, stopping and facing Anya.

Once stopped, she noticed something odd. The left half of his face and neck had stripes on it. Three on his cheek and four down his neck, they almost looked like tattoos and the fur that grew in their stead was turned black.

"Are those tattoos?" she asked, in honest interest.

"Sort of. It's a root extract, more of a dye. It's a long and painful process that takes days to complete."

"But why? What does it mean?"

"It's a marking, that I understand and respect the zebra. Each stripe is for every year that I have learned with them."

Anya looked puzzled, before asking for an explanation he provided one:

"Zebra's believe that everything is connected. Everything everywhere touches everything. There is an un-felt connection, one that cannot be quantified, weighed or measured. From the head, the center of life, down the back and to the tail is a strip of differently colored fur. This solid piece branches out into points away from the center, the source.

"The zebra believe that their stripes are a symbol of connectivity. From the center we spread out to the world beyond. For us, the stripes do not end, they continue on into eternity. Where my stripes end, more begin, return to the center of another and continue on from there."

"Most think it's a religion of sorts. It's more of an observation of life, death and the continuity of all things. Everything starts at the source, extends and returns. All manner of life, no matter what form it is has an aura, an energy. It speaks to those willing to listen. All of creation whispering to you, allowing you to whisper back."

Anya remained silent for a while, mulling over what she had just been told. Zebras did have a unique way of looking at things. They continued to walk along side each other for a while before she asked another question, spurred on by head cannons of others as to what zebra were and the relationship between them and the ponies.

"I don't want to be offensive, but pony and zebra relationships, how is that? What's going on with it?"

"They aren't about to blow each other to kingdom come." The stallion laughed. "But as with ponies, they like to stick with or make friends with those of their own type. I guess it's because they are more comfortable with what they know. But ponies are ponies and zebra are zebra I guess. There is always someone that is going to hate the other. What do you think?"

"I don't know. I just know that some ponies think they are scum, talking bad about them. I see them all, us all, as the same species. Just in different environments, they grew to adapt. Ponies in northern colder areas tend to have thicker coats and manes, those in southern areas tend to have lighter, finer fur because of the heat. I say they just adapted to the areas where they live." Anya explained things as she felt they were.

"Also, you said you were raised outside of Equestria your whole life, does that mean you are seven?" Anya asked, referring to the tattoos.

"No, I'm thirty-two." he answered.

A quick bit of math made him rougly eighteen in earth years. Still a young pony. But the seven marks didn't make sense, they didn't extend any further down his neck, it was the light purple down for a few inches before the cloak took over.

"But you said each one was a year, if you are thrity-two there are twenty five years unaccounted for with seven stripes."

The stallion sighed. "It's a long story. To make it short, I guess I forgot who I was. I woke up one day and nothing made sense. I.. didn't know what was real, or anything but how to speak really..."

"And you spent time in a hospital." Anya finished, "I had something happen like that happen a while ago, an identity crisis so to speak."

"That sounds alot better than 'Hey, I don't remember who I was the past two decades and spent a year in a mental ward.' Identity crisis sounds alot better."

Anya had noticed some oddities in the way he was speaking and math that didn't add up. It may have been a long shot, but as they were speaking she felt... something odd, something similar between the two. She had an incling that she needed to test.

"I don't think an insane asylum has the same stigma attached to it here as it does back on earth." She said nonchalantly, poking, prodding, waiting for the response she was sure that would come.

"No, here it just seems to be like a regular visit to the doctor's off-..." he stopped speaking and stopped mid-stride in the road. Shocked down to the core. Anya had stopped as well, a giant shit-eating grin across her muzzle that stretched a mile wide.

"No, no...no."the stallion shook his head in disbelief. "You mean there are more, there are others... from Earth? Sub-Way and Coca-Cola and horrible synth music from the 80's?"

"And Burger King, video games and flavored condoms. And bacon. Fucking bacon!" Anya squealed, nearly ready to explode. To jump twenty feet into the air and sent colorful balls of light into infinity with how happy she was.

The stallion fell to the ground on his rear, his legs shaking uncontrollably. "So you are dead too then..."

"What?! No! I'm not dead, you aren't dead." Anya said, her voice turning to concern.

"Then where are we? Last thing I remember before waking up in a field and screaming for ten minutes was a crash or something, something horrible."

"Best way to describe it, I think it's an alternate dimension. String theory, the multi-vrsre or something like that. Kinda like earth but with ponies instead of people. But we are very much alive, I know that for certain."

"I'm just... We'd better catch up to the wagon." he said, picking himself up from the ground and slowly heading off until he was sure he could gallop at a decent pace.

"What's wrong?" Anya asked as they slowed down in stride with the wagon again.

"I don't know, this changes everything. I thought I was in some sort of afterlife or something. Dead. Insane hell in the beginning and then a reward after living through it." The air of confidence had left his voice, he began to speak slower.

"What changes though? You are on your way to Baltimare, for your potions."

"You're here now, that changes everything. I have so much to ask, questions about here and back on earth. I have been so scared to talk to anyone about it. A nurse gave me some advice, told me that if I was from some other place, that I was here now and if I could get over that hurdle and live here and now that things would be better. And they have. But knowing for certain that this isn't some sort of heaven or hell... it changes everything. I... I want to get back, go home."

As much as Anya had positive feelings about continuing her life here, even with the rocky start, she began to regret saying anything about earth. This was all fine and dandy for her, a familiar surrounding to her, something passably comfortable. For someone else, this may have been a dream or nightmare, and she just woke him up with an equivalent of a gunshot going off by his ear.

"I'm sorry." she apologized.

"When did you get here? And how?" the stallion blew off her apology. A once dead vigor renewed to full potency.

Anya thought the best way to go forward was carefully, answering each question with a certain degree of truth.

"A few months ago. I was in bed one night and then," she paused. If she told him that she was 'invited', he'd think there was a way out and drive himself insane trying to get back. "I woke up in a basement. They'd mistaken me for someone else, and I nearly died because of that. As for how I got here, it was magic or something, this world is full of it."

"There has to be more! You don't just come here for no reason. The... the amount of energy required to cross dimensions, streams, wherever this place is... There has to be a machine somewhere." The unicorn started rambling, spouting off every science fiction television theory on different dimensions he could think of. "I just... I... Have to get back, you HAVE to help me."

"I don't think I want to go back." Anya swallowed hard, seeing an image of her previous body, dead somewhere, didn't matter where, just the latent image that popped into her mind of a lifeless corpse after it was struck down from across realities. "Don't want to go back and die, find out that I am dead, if that is the case, while I'm still clearly alive here."

There was a long pause in the conversation. The stallion's hoof steps seemed harder, his pace quickened, as if he had a purpose and was heading towards it.

"What would have happened if I never said anything?" Anya broke the silence after what felt like hours.

"I'd have probably gone onto Baltimare, collected my ingredients and headed back to Shoal on the coast. I live on the beach, I always loved the beach..."

"Then do that. I don't know how I got here, I don't know if I can leave. I would think that knowing you weren't dead was a good thing. You seemed genuinely happy before. We can't pretend this never happened, but we can't change anything about where we are."

"I need some time to think... Make sense of something I had put behind me and forgotten nearly a decade ago. I just... need some time to think." he said quietly, lowering his head as they began to walk in silence.

The clouds began to thicken up. Lost in conversation as they walked and passed time the scenery had changed. Trees thinned out and stopped growing, the air became thinner and a steady incline was leading them forever upward. Frost spread across the ground and the last few patches of grass that dared grow at this altitude disappeared.

Rocks started to dot the landsacpe, ones that soon turned into boulders and eventually began to meld into the landscape as it turned into one massive rock that was the ground. The fine gravel that crunched under hoof turned into slightly stepped stones with knee high walls around the path.

The air became biting cold, whistling across the rocks and blasting the traveling caravan hard. It forced those who were uncloaked to slip into protection from the frigid weather.

Silently they all trotted on until they slowed to a crawl, feeling out the path through a choking fog that rendered them blind. Anya quietly slipped of the studding ring and tried the spell she had accidentally cast before. She called it 'Detect life', as that is what it did. It cut through the fog and the ten ponies around her were perfectly visible as white silhouettes against the cold blue ground.

Snow blanketed the ground, first in tiny flurries, then hoof deep. The carriage ponies began to tread even slower as not to loose their grip on the frozen stairs. After a deathly slow pace they all stopped, as the ground leveled out. The outlines of warm houses appeared, other ponies and the start of a small city swept the perfectly flat landscape before her.

"Look at the stars!" The stallion beside her paused from walking, head drawn towards the sky. Anya looked up and saw nothing and then pulled the veil of sight from her eyes.

The sky opened up in a flood of royal blue and violet, a liquid canvas of color swept around in swirls like an artist mixing paint. Small explosions of crimson and yellow clouds appeared, nebula too far to touch glowing in the light of the stars inside them.

Not a single cloud was to be seen as the heavens opened up. Billions of tiny specks of light dotted the sky. Stars arranged in strange constellations and shapes one could almost make out. Instinct drove her to look for the big dipper, but it was not to be found. Instead there were an uncountable number of other points of light to see things in.

The moon was cast in a brilliant soft blue, tainting the ground and everything in sight with it's glow. Everything spread out before her eyes was breath taking, there was no where on, or near Earth that looked like this.

"The stars are happy tonight." her companion said, breaking the long silence between them.

"What... does that mean?" Anya asked, her gaze still fixed skyward.

"It means good dreams tonight." he smiled weakly. "I haven't felt them like this in years."

"If we weren't unicorns and talking, I'd say you were crazy." the mare let a smile close her gaping maw.

"Let's find someplace to sleep for the night. You'll be able to see Cloudsdale in the morning."

Author's Note:

Not really feeling this one... Kinda started writing and got ahead of myself, added a character that was meant for later... Dunno how this is going to effect the story up to the point where he was supposed to join in...

Comments ( 11 )

New chapter at 2 am? That's okay. I didn't need to sleep anyway.:pinkiecrazy:

Some good world building, and the plot thickens.:twilightsmile:

Has someone been playing classic Fallout?

5838441
LOL... Was bored and wrapped the chapter up, then realized it was 3 months since last update...
I haven't played any of the original fallout games, but I have watched a bunch of play-throughs. What makes you ask that?

5838456

it could have been 2077 for all she knew. One thing was certain, that the smaller towns on the map may not exist at all anymore, Oretin proved that.

2077 was when the series kicks off, if I'm remembering correctly, and in the original, all towns are small towns that will be gone by the time FO2 takes place.

Also the line about ponies and zebras blowing each other to kingdom come looked like a nod to Fallout: Equestria.

new chapter appears.

this new pony...... yehap almost 100% sure.

good to see this udpate after a hiatus.

5838482
The 2077 was a fallout reference, but small town being gone wasn't anything though. Also, Fallout Equestria reference as well.
You are missing another really, really obscure date reference.... XD

He seems nice. Also trouble. I love your idea that the zebra attribute cultural significance to their stripes.

If it takes an Arch-Mage with nothing to lose and a whole entire town's worth of burned out fire energy to cross to the human world, how did he get across?

Yeah, definitely trouble.

Interesting. I feel bad for the stallion. In either case I'd probably have taken Anya's point of view. If you haven't any hope of getting back and not much reason want to , you may as well just move on. A different world is better than being dead and honestly an afterlife where you still have to suffer being cold and hungry or being depressed doesn't sound terribly exciting.

5871638
Just because that happened in on case doesn't mean it was absolutely necessary. I assume the world crossing was simply a last ditch effort to escape justice/punishment. Not exactly a trifling amount of power, but not outside of the reach of others who are in the know. Also, maybe in this universe/multi-verse their agreement (the dude and whatever her name was) has some kind of intrinsic power of it's own. Otherwise why wouldn't <whatever her name was> have just done what she did without asking?

I do have to wonder whether he meant that he didn't remember the previous twenty years as a pony or if he meant that he'd forgotten most of the world he came from. Assuming he's not evil, the Princesses probably ought to be informed.

Well crud. Just finished the first story and the second one is half finished? Too bad.

Sad that this one is dead

I liked that very much :)

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