• Published 25th Dec 2014
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Diary of the Dead - AppleTank



Sometimes, you want to live just a little bit longer. And longer. And longer

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2: An Angry Dead (v2)

1170 years before

Appleton lies a little over four hundred kilometers north east east of Sunny Pines. I didn’t know that, of course. I didn’t remember much of anything then, besides the minimal understanding that if I stood still, I would have lost.

In truth, a majority of this section of my life was actually told by the resident Seer, Ach--oh right, she went by a different name back then. The griffons had a bounty on her head for the longest time. Heh, managed to get away from it when she found out how to ... change. But that’s for another time.


The half conscious wraith stumbled aimlessly forwards, uncaring of what he ran through. Trees crumbled, half their trunks missing from just a touch. Tiny circles formed under his hoofsteps, pieces of land that would never bear life again for centuries to come. Curious predators and confused prey littered behind him as torn-apart decomposing chunks, victims of those who chanced too close.

There was a destination. Somewhere. Then there was a light, and he followed it.


A few hours ago

A grey-crested barn owl griffon jerked in her bed and fell off and onto the floor. She merely twisted in place, her purple eyes glowing as she glared into the distance. A trapdoor flipped open, golden eyes searching for the noise.

“Agatha? You okay?”

“Oh, dear Gladas. I’m not the one who you should be asking that.”

“What?”

“Change, dear. A branch of time is reaching out, filled with sorrow, despair, and rage...”

“Is ... that a bad thing?”

“All in due time, chick” The old griffoness stood up properly, stretching old joints. “But for now, I need to go do some gardening.”

“Can you please stop being all cryptic and vague?”

“No. It gives me an out in case I’m wrong.”

“But...! Oh. Um. I think that’s kinda reasonable?”

Agatha laughed. “Don’t worry too much. I’ll be back in a few days. The threads of time seem to expect nothing, yet fear my touch. I wish to check it out personally, and if it interests me, under my watch. If my senses have not led me astray, then it will cause change. The world would then harbon an extra, chick. And the wrong being in the right place will make all the difference.”


Shadows. Light. Shadow. Get rid of blockage. Light. Light moved. Light means clear path... right? Don’t stop moving. Forwards. Onwards. Moon. Sun. Light.

Pillar. Destroy. Follow the light. Something sticks on. Consume. Forwards. Moon. Sun. Light

Step. Push. Consume. Don’t stop moving. Light? Town. Town! Help. Light back. What do you want? Come back.

Light?

Oh. Door.

Knock? No, no more. Impolite to destroy door. Wait. Patience, mom says. I can hear her clear as the Light. Wait. Wait some more. Is the world shaking?

Why is it getting dark?

I feel so ... tired.

Oh. the door is open.

Hello .... Angel.


A snow-white dove-griffon opened her loft window at the sound of pebbles. She poked her head out only to get a paper bird to the face. She blinked dazedly at it before she unfolded it.

He’s here.
--Agatha

Her golden eyes shot open and she leapt out of her room, tumbling down the stairs. There was a heavy knock on the door when she sat up. Grimacing, she quickly padded over and pulled open the door.

Agatha, a weathered, grey horned-owl griffon, raised an eyebrow, shaking her head. “Back door”.

A few seconds later, she opened the correct door, looked around and ... oh. She was somewhat expecting this visitor to be a lot taller.

There was a bloody smear on the wall, the colt was covered in what looked like half the forest, corpses included, annnnd he collapsed. Great.


Pass me the tags. No, the one on the right. There’s a lot more damage here than I expected. I need to .....Alright, he should be anchored now, at the very ....... just a little bit .....

Voices echoed in the dim darkness that made up my mind. I recognized abstractly that they were voices, but incapable of reasoning, of getting anything out of that information.

”Don’t know if ..... there .... should be enough .......... survive. Memories...? Testing .....Now.

I felt a tingle, then some sort of powerful vacuum pull me down from where I was drifting, dead to the world, My forelegs were pulled out and chained by weight. A familiar weight, of flesh and bone. With it, came a return of searing pain from burns covering the revived limbs, and the scar in my heart from seeing my mother’s empty eyes.

My memories came last, along with the endless loop of my mission ringing in my head.

“ARRGGGHH!” I screamed, pushing upwards.

“Ah, no.” A glowing claw slammed into my muzzle and pushed me back onto the hard surface I laid on. “You came to me, wraith, and I spent a lot of work pulling what remains of the mess you’ve made back together. I woke you up to make sure everything is working, and to try and slow down your mental degradation. It would be all too easy for me to leave your unfinished business unfinished forever. Do we have an understanding?”

Wincing through the jolts of static shock, I hastily nodded, unable to pry her iron grip off her face.

“Good.” The griffoness stepped back. Her crest was white, though flecked with blood. Her beak was dark, almost black, which only let the glow of her golden eyes shine brighter. Scurrying around her, across the tabletops, and over her back, were two cats and a mouse, though from first glance they clearly weren’t normal.

I saw an overgrown mane, and leather wings. Inky smoke trailed in the corners. Piercing red orbs looked as if they were locked into my eyes.

The moment of reprieve gave me time to look around-- woah there!

“There’s a hole in my chest!” From what I could see, since everything from my waist down felt paralyzed, my chest cavity was pried wide open, my ribs raised to the air like the teeth of some giant-boned flytrap. A lung and part of my intestines were quite distinctly disconnected from the rest of me, the fleshy hole gaping off to the side. If I could move my head further, I figured I could probably see my spine.

The griffoness rolled her eyes. “Nice to meet you too. I’m Gladas, your choice of doctor for the evening. Your only doctor.” She held up a talon.

My eyes darted from my chest cavity to her several times, before my bewildered and scattered mind made the connections. “O-oh! Uh, Cycle.” I reached out and hesitantly shook her claw. “What ... .what happened?”

Gladas stuck her arms back inside my chest cavity, rolling in a spool of ultra fine wire. After a moment, she leaned back, wiped her forehead, and said, “You showed up at the door of my store, and fell dead at my feet. I was told that reviving you would be a good idea.” She stuck her head in close, eyes flaring with piercing yellow light. “Don’t make me regret it/.”

I nodded immediately, my mind starting to feel woozy and the room seeming to spin above me. Every once in a while, she jabbed a spot with her talon, and asked me if I could feel it. I did, but often times it felt numb, and far away. While I waited for her to finish setting my insides, my eyes wandered about the room. It was clean, and seemed to be covered in white tiles. There wasn’t much I could see besides the operating table I was on, and some bags filled with equipment scattered about. My roving eyes then caught a bit of movement.

A pair of glowing red eyeballs stared back.

“Eerk!”

“Don’t mind them,” Gladas muttered. “They’re just curious about the new arrival.”

I managed to stop tunnel-visioning in order to observe the inquisitive onlookers I had passed over earlier. There was a rat, a housecat, and what looked like a miniature manticore.

“The rat is Stuart-5,” Gladas explained. “The other two are adopted sisters, Wildcat-6 and Hellcat-18. Wildcat is the one with the grafted manticore parts.”

‘Stuart’ and “Hellcat’ both seemed to made of more smoke than flesh, though under light one could glimpse scarred and stitched skin underneath. ‘Wildcat’ would have looked almost normal if it didn’t have miniature manticore parts quite plainly stitched on.

“Huh.”

After another few minutes or so, Gladas stepped back, tying the last stitch on my chest cavity. “Alright, I’m pretty much done. This is going to feel ... strange.” She cut a bit of her talon with her beak, and slapped the floor. A circular barrier of light lit up around us, and shrank in on me.

My eyes bulged, as the full force of my memories slammed into me. My muted emotions became a hurricane, as every single reminder of death nearly sent me catatonic.

Gladas hastily grabbed me as I started to curl into a ball. “Woah there! Calm down. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“All dead,” I gasped out through choking sobs. The despair flashed into rage. “The rotten parasite.”

Gladas flashed a look behind her, at a shadowed row of shining teeth. “Well ... I like to believe you ended up here for a reason. Maybe we have something you want.”

It took me a moment before I realized what she was offering. “Wait ... where am I?”

“Appleton. You’ve heard of it?”

I weakly tapped my chin. “I think I heard some p-ponies mention coming over to here for trade.”

“Really? Where are you from?”

I scowled. “S-sunny Pines. No point now. No p-ponies there anymore. All dead.” I saw my bag settled against the wall, and gestured at it. “Some parasite-” I spat, “-came and killed them all.”

Gladas nodded thoughtfully. “I see. Well, this building isn’t actually in Appleton proper. Its a few minutes walk north of it. This building specifically is called Plan P. You found me and Option P, its a small herb shop I spend most of my time in. My granddad built it since he found out I was taking up medicine.

Plan P here is our headquarters. Here-” she gestured around us, “-is our ritual-slash-operating room. Its underground, with a few floors dug even deeper for secrecy’s sake. Right now, there are a total of five members, including me. Our goal is to research and understand the nuances of Dark and Death magics; and make them suitable for general use, on top of getting around all the negative connotations it seemed to have picked up over the years.

“We believe that despite its history, there are good and bad sides to every tool. We’re haven’t done this for very long, but, well, we can afford to take it slowly. What do you think?”

I sat in thought for a few minutes. “Can you teach me to exterminate their entire species?”

“Revenge, then.” Gladas wiggled her talon. “We likely have the resources for that. Probably several options depending on how much control you want. We'll open some of the materials for you, but your project will likely be more or less self study.”

My eyes shot up in confusion.

Glad as sat back and crossed her arms. “You aren't the only person here with things to accomplish. Experiments to run, ponies to befriend, enemies to be scouted, resources to secure. Also, you’re not a member. We can’t afford any bad publicity without fear of extreme reprisal from forces beyond our own. Sorry if it sounds callous, but if you screw up, you’re on your own. Grandfather’s policy. We'll help you keep them out, but that's it”

I snarled, barely holding back my desire to lash out “Fine. I’ll stay out of your way. When can I start?”

“Well, I have to make sure all your limbs and senses work properly. That will take us an hour at if all goes well, more if I have to reset a few things,” she said, gesturing at the small pulse of heat inside my chest. “Your bag is just outside, I’ll give it back and lead you to our library when we’re done here. Was going to mention it earlier, but in order to save you, we had to anchor your soul to this Emerald.” Gladas tapped the faintly pulsing green glow underneath my chest. “It is your Phylactery. It is, for all intents and purposes, you now. Protect it at all costs, because while you control your body through it, so can others. Most of us are on the same system.”

I listened with detached interest, my hooves twitching irritably.“Fine,” I spat. “Get it over with.”

I sat back as she began poking my joints, testing for pain response, leaving my mind to swirling my boiling anger and the voices of home. I’ll save all of you, I told the howling ghosts surrounding me. All forty-nine of you.


Agatha glanced up when Gladas stepped in, the young bird’s golden yellow eyes glaring down at her. She raised an eyebrow and met her stare with her own violet orbs.

Gladas groaned. “Agatha, just what did you bring here?”

Agatha tilted her head. “Elaborate.”

“That colt,” Gladas said, gesturing behind her, is just sitting at a table giggling and chatting with the air. He is clearly unstable, and is a massive security risk. What do we do if those ghosts start convincing him to--”

“Ah. That.” Agatha looked down at her project held in her claws, a piece of partially cut wood board with a piece of sandpaper on it. She gave it a few more rubs before replying. “Well, if you want to know the exact details of why our guest is in such a state, I wouldn’t know for sure.” Gladas rolled her eyes. “However, from my three days of following him-” Gladas looked back sharply, “-I can tell he is extremely driven, and once has laid sight on a goal, it would take a miracle for him to give up.”

“I... I didn’t know he lasted that long. I thought he was merely a few hours away...”

“No, worse. He was the last survivor, as I’m sure he has told you. If you go outside, you will find a trail of hoofprints that will likely never bear life again. Reach the end, and you will see a quaint little town turned ghost in a matter of days, with the bodies still there. That is why he survived for three days inside a falling apart corpse, besides sheer determination. He is a survivor, Gladas. Harmony wanted him dead, worse than even me.”

“Why?”

Agatha grinned, beak full of teeth. “I wanted to see what happens when an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object. It would’ve taken an entire week of constant circles for Harmony to put that pony down. Trust me, with that colt here, we will live to see interesting times.”

Gladas palmed her face. “No no, why does Harmony want him dead?”

“Ah, that.” Agatha face seemed to age a bit, more resembling her actual age. She distractedly polished the sheets of wood she started earlier on her desk, before taking a deep breath. “I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve been exercising my talents for the past decade, meditating for patterns.” Agatha leaned forwards, beak cupped. “I think I’ve figured it out. Harmony’s plan.”

Gladas’s gasped. “Does this mean you will be able to work around it?”

Agatha shrugged. “Don’t get me wrong, it does wish to unite the world; I don’t want to just flip the sky. It just really, really rather I not exist. I do have a penchant for being a disruptive force, it’s hard for me to resist, as evidenced by me pulling your grandfather out of the grand mess he’s made of his own life. Meanwhile, Harmony has already began to choose who will be the stars who shine through history. To my ... well, I don’t really know how to feel about it, but it has chosen the ponies to carry its Plan. Those Marks of theirs helps, BUT! It makes it predictable. A pony acting against their talent is a rare, significant sight, and it would be even harder to hide the pulses of certainty all the ponies will have of their lives.

“As for the colt’s role in all this, I know it is hard to see it right now, but he does not have a bad heart if not for his grief spiral we are currently witnessing. I can feel a strong sense of loyalty underneath all that anger. In a better place and time, he might have become one of those pony exemplars.

“Instead,” Agatha spared a glance to the younger, “he has the ‘fortune’ to be our keystone. By giving the ponies a Destiny, it has risked the creation of its own enemy. There’s also one other thing. After I brought him here, I spent a few hours meditating. I wanted to find out why it was so afraid of me keeping him alive. No specifics yet, but one thing held true in almost every situation: we will not survive past three centuries past the colt’s death.” Agatha looked up from polishing her project, and fixed Gladas with a glare. “When the time comes for it, prioritize him. I will sacrifice myself if it means he lives, because with a little bit of prodding, he will dedicate the rest of his existence into preserving our work.”

Gladas nodded a bit shakily. “U-understood.”

“Try to minimize who you tell this to. Just keep the colt alive to the best of your ability.” The elder griffon waved Gladas away. “Now shoo. My manipulations require peace and quiet.”

Gladas soon left on quiet pads, while Agatha set aside her carving project, reached underneath her bed and dragged out a large case. Within a few minutes, she set up her self-built cello and leaned it against her shoulder, gently tapping the strings to check its tune. Her purple eyes glared at the distant advancing clouds, her mind flashing with plans set for the centuries ahead.

“Well?” she rasped. “I’m waiting.”

Author's Note:

This chapter was supposed to go up right after Travelogue 2 to sort of go with the theme of leaving home I started. Then I ran into a block, and wasn't sure how to go past the opening scene. Fortunately, since I don't have to go in a straight line, I wrote something else instead until I could figure out what to write.

I’m iffy on whether or not souls exist, but for the purpose of the story, some form of it is required for the phylactery to work. Zombies don’t have phylacteries, and can be called actually dead. Cycle, however, is just delusional.

Blog Post: References (In case it wasn't obvious)

v2 (10 APR 2017)

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