• Published 26th Dec 2014
  • 1,406 Views, 20 Comments

The Millennial Vault - Door Matt

The greatest archaeological find of the millennium.

  • ...

Behind Closed Doors

A dream. Breaker knew it had to be a dream.

Nothing could take out a Princess. They were the strongest and wisest of them all, invulnerable to any threat. So there was absolutely no way that what he was looking at right now was true. It couldn’t be real. A dream...

Or maybe she was the one dreaming, looking so peaceful like that. So lifeless and still...not even breathing.

His hoof hovered only inches away from the fur on her back.

“Princess Twili-”

The body suddenly burst in a salvo of hissing, making Breaker instantly recoil in pure terror. As he scrambled backwards, Twilight’s body melted, draining of colour and form into a black, pulpy mess, that rose from the ground in a grotesque display of metamorphosis. Breaker gripped and slid on the hard surface, unable to keep his eyes away from the growing abomination. It rose and rose, with no eyes to speak of, but he knew it could see him. He knew it was facing him. And he definitely knew it could hurt him.

“Hey! You!”

Breaker turned his head, daring to look away for but a second. Behind him, Ink stood dead centre of the room, raising his camera.

“Say ‘Cheese’!”

“No stop- GAHHHH!”

The chamber filled instantly with light, and screams. The flash burned Breaker’s eyes, and his first instinct was to panic, but the overwhelming noise countermanded everything else. His left hoof buckled under his own body weight, and his shoulder slammed into the ground. Ignoring the burst of pain, he rose and scrambled backwards further, still blinded but desperate to get away from the multitude of shrieks somewhere in the room. It didn’t sound like one voice, but a collection - a chorus of pain and terror in the nebulous caverns.

And then as if at once, the wails and blinding echo of the camera flash receded. Breaker pressed down hard onto the floor with his front hooves, and blinked, still seeing the ghost of the glow in the darkness, obstructing his vision.

“Holy...damn. You okay?”

Ink’s hoof gradually came into focus, which he gladly took, not trusting his bruised shoulder to fully support the effort to rise to all four hooves. Suddenly, he turned around in fear.

“Where? Where is it!?” The entire corner was empty, with nothing remaining to even hint of an occupying presence just moments before.

“I didn’t see.” Breaker noticed Ink’s glasses had come off after the flash, as he recovered them from underneath his hooves, returning them to his face. “She…was there...I saw her about to lunge for you, so I just...hoped to distract it. But I blinded myself too...maybe it ran off down one of the tunnels.”

“That…” Breaker realised he was out of breath, and panted. “That was not the Princess.”

“You don’t say? We could use somepony of your insight back at the Times.”

Breaker ignored the snark, and tentatively glanced down one of the dank exits, opposing the one they had entered from. “How did it know what she looked like?”

That’s what you’re asking?” Ink said incredulously. “How about what the heck that thing even is? Or what it’s doing down here? Or even, when are we gonna stop trying to get ourselves killed?!”

“When we find the rest!” Breaker said, rounding on Ink. “I get that we’re out of our league here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t-”

“Shhh!” One of Ink’s ears suddenly twitched. “I sensed something just now. Somepony’s casting magic nearby.”

Breaker stepped back, turning in a circle, listening too for any sign, until a thought came to him. “I don’t hear anything. Say, was that a uhm...a changeling? I heard they mimic bodies.”

“No. No no no...I was there at the Battle of the Wedding. And no changelings I saw ever looked like what that thing was turning into. This is different,” Ink replied, rushing his light orb between each exit, scanning each one with pale light. “Damn...I know I felt someth-”


“What was that?” Breaker whirled around, praying he had heard right.

“Back! Back this way!”

“It’s blocked, remember!?”

“We’ll force our way through somehow!”

“Hey! Hey hey, you guys! We’re here!” Ink yelled, through the obstructed doorway where the voices had originated, increasing in volume but still muffled through solid rock.

“Somepony’s through there! Hello?!”

“We’re here!” Breaker yelled in reply, already thinking desperately how it could be possible to clear the way. “We’ll get you out, somehow! Is the Princess there?”

“She’s fighting some...thing down here! We don’t know what it is but it ambushed us! Please hurry! I don’t think we can do anything on this end!”

“Quick, you move rocks that side, I’ll do my best here,” Breaker said to Ink, wasting no time in trying to pull the first hoofball-sized rock from the pile. “Give us a moment!”

Ink’s magic enveloped a larger boulder on the right side, but he visibly struggled to even move it a few inches. “Grrahh! This is gonna take too long,” he gasped. “There’s no chance we’ll move all of this in time. We need more magic...or something!”

“There isn’t any,” Breaker replied, panting as the first rock eventually came free, crashing down to the ground. “It’s down to us, we can’t-”

For the second time, the whole room glowed with light, and Breaker thought in the heat of the moment that the camera had gone off. But the shine was too colourful, Ink’s expression too shocked; and they both turned away, as the noise of magic reverberated through their eardrums. The centre of the room crackled with sparks, and faded amid a glow of lavender as the battered but alive form of Princess Twilight Sparkle emerged from the ether, horn radiant with light, banishing the darkness to the shadows.

She noticed them immediately. “Oh no...please! It’s not safe here, you must get out and stop anypony else from coming in!”

“Fine timing Princess, but maybe you could help us out here in letting everypony else out?” Ink yelled, a dull boom from within the earth somewhere below their feet filling the chamber with a deafening roar.

“There’s too many to teleport.” Twilight cast a worried look down the open hallways, and focused on the rubble. “Stand back, get well away from there, all of you!”

Breaker spared no hesitation in back away into the adjacent corner, and just about heard the muffled acknowledgments of the trapped archaeologists as another boom shifted a layer of dust from the ceiling, scattering it into the air. If anything, the sensation was equivalent to a full-on earthquake.

His attention swiftly turned back to Twilight when he heard the familiar whirr of magic winding up, and watched in awe as the alicorn spread her hooves out for balance, and launched a sequence of successive blasts from her horn, directly at the blocked doorway. He counted four before the impacts became too loud and explosive for him to concentrate, and he quickly shielded his eyes for fear of flying debris.

Finally the detonations stopped, and as Breaker dared to peek out, he saw a wheezing Princess looking relieved at the results of her handiwork. The entire top half of rocks had been utterly blasted into smithereens.

“Incredible! That’s...oh blast! I didn’t get a shot…” Ink said, emerging from the opposite corner, a fine layer of dust covering his mane. “Hey! Come through!”

One of the guards was the first to emerge, making a beeline for Twilight as the trail of elderly ponies scampered through and onwards through the exit hallway. “Are you insane Princess?!” he bellowed, startling Breaker and Twilight both. “Teleporting away to fight that thing alone? It is our duty to keep you safe-”

“”Hey, hey! The heck are you doing?” Breaker yelled at the armoured unicorn. “It sounds like she saved your life!”

“GUYS!” Ink didn’t look like the sort of pony who could out-shout a crowd, but in that second, he could. “Time and a place, yeah?”

“Yes, indeed,” Twilight said, half-concentrating as she again scanned the other doorways, listening intently while the last few ponies made it out, the second guard bringing up the rear. “Is that everyone Oak Shield?”

“Yes Princess,” he nodded, a light orb of his own floating alongside. “Please, teleport straight to the surface and warn the others to evacuate. We’ll be right behind you.”

“But I know I can repel it while-”

About to butt in with a motion for them all to simply leg it, Breaker felt something sickening course through the earth underneath. It was nothing like the feeling from when the vault has first opened. This was a magic his body wanted to get a million miles away from, as if actively repulsed by. His stomach lurched, sending a pang of sickness to his senses.

And then from what sounded like all three doorways deeper into the earth, came the unmistakable tone of whispers.

He snapped to attention, in disbelief that the three authoritative ponies in front of him were still debating who would leave first. “Whatever it is is coming! We all have to leave right now!”

Twilight and the guards both stopped, and listened for the briefest of moments. Everyone’s face fell in dread, and Twilight pointed at the exit. “All of you out now! I’ll cover-”

All three orbs of light suddenly died in an instant, plunging the group in total darkness. The whispers grew in a haunting chorus.

“Oh no.”

“What happened?!”

“I can’t see! Where’s the door?!”

“It’s alright, it’s alright! I’ll just re-cast it…”

A purple point in the blackness shone like a beacon, before another orb gradually rose up, slowly illuminating the chamber once more. Twilight hadn’t moved but Ink and the guards had made somewhat for the exit doorway, and were standing right by it.

“There, now we can-”

Breaker’s heart almost stopped as a black movement caught the corner of his vision. The closest pillar to his left had started to - what he could only describe as - bleed. Every rune upon it’s surface began leaking a dark gunky liquid that didn’t appear to be blood, but still made Breaker instantly recoil. He looked away, abhorred, only to see not just the other pillars but every rune on every wall ooze the same substance.


There was no mistaking it. A voice had broken through the whispering, sending Breaker’s brain into overdrive. It sounded malevolent, and ravenous.


By the time he and the guards noticed, it was too late. A long, black tendril descended from the ceiling, which Breaker looked at for just a second to realise it had been covered with a pulsating solid form, extending entirely to the four walls. He surged forward, towards Twilight, a few seconds too late to prevent the tendril sticking to the back of her neck.

The effects were instantaneous. Twilight’s orb spluttered and died to sound of her screaming in agony, blanking Breaker’s vision once more. The screams rebuffed him; his legs refused to move in case one of those things managed to grab him too. A part of his brain told him to run, to escape whatever the darkness held for him.

The sound of hooves brushed past him, soon followed by a dull thud, silencing the Princess’ tormented howls. But that just made the sounds from above that much more potent.

“I’ve got her! Run run run!”

Flight finally won out over fight, and Breaker stumbled in complete obscurity backwards to where he imagined the door to be. More hooves clattered on the ground ahead, but the sheer terror of what lay above made it impossible to concentrate. Lurching forward once more, his shoulder collided with the flat surface of a wall.

“Oh...crap! Where’s the do-”

He stopped, feeling a nearby presence come closer to his left. And in that one second, Breaker considered what it would feel like to die.

“Got ya! Let’s go!”

Ink’s hoof grabbed his front leg, and pulled him towards the doorway, where wasting no time in thinking how he could thank the unicorn at a later date, urgently followed him in hurtling down the cavern passage. not quite managing to block out the tortuous screams of the creature behind him.

The two journalists practically threw themselves back over the threshold, to a crowd of extremely worried ponies gathered in a huge huddle in the clearing’s centre. Breaker just about caught the purple shape of the Princess being gradually lowered to the floor off the back of Oak Shield.

“Oh...thank Celestia...is she okay!?” Ink yelled, still breathing heavily from exertion.

“She’s unconscious, but still breathing. There’s a seared mark where it grazed her but it doesn’t look permanent,” Oak said, sweating protrously from his armour. “Please tell me you weren't followed.”

“Just what the heck is going on? What’s down there?” Noteworthy stepped up, clearly concerned.

A chorus cry of howls emanated from the darkness behind, and everyone swiveled round in shock.

“You’re a unicorn! Close those doors!” Breaker bellowed at the other guard instinctively. “It’s gotta be the only way to stop it getting out, if it was still down there!”

“I can’t handle both! Look how heavy they are! It’s possible I could close one by myself but-”.

“My time to shine,” Ink interrupted, lighting up his horn. Breaker hadn’t even noticed he’d lost his hat somewhere behind.

Another much louder piercing scream erupted from the gloom, heard by all in the clearing. A few ponies were already scrambling away down the woodland trail back to civilization. Not hesitating, the two unicorns projected their magic onto each door.

“Gah! Hnnng!” Ink visibly strained as the weight of the task hit him. The guard didn’t fare much better, scrunching up his eyes as his magical field enveloped the left-side stone slab. And then, very slowly, the doors heaved away from the walls.

Far too slowly. Breaker could feel the vibrations in the earth drumming louder, and he couldn’t tell if the whispers has returned of if his imagination was creating them out of fear.

“I need time! Give me your camera!” Breaker yelled to Ink.

“Fine! Take it! Lil busy here!” Ink’s eyes clenched shut as his dug his hooves right into the ground, sweat pouring off his head.

Rushing, Breaker gripped the strap with his teeth, and pulled the device completely off Ink. Clutching it with a hoof, he moved toward the entrance, right to the edge of darkness. Something rotten was flowing outwards into the world with the wind; the air stunk of age and sulphur.

“What are you doing!? Get back from there!” the guard shouted.

“Buying you time!” Breaker replied, not knowing if his sudden idea would work, or if the fluke from before had been just that: a fluke. But something was better than nothing, and this situation looked like it could turn deadly if the latter happened. Maybe even world-threatening.

Breaker stared into the abyss, a darkness he hadn’t seen in even the blackest of night skies. Through the screams, the unholy scratches clawing the walls inside, he waited, not daring to look away. Even when a small scrap of moonlight pierced the inside of the Vault, partially revealing a black form, limbs that seemed to rise and fall within the body in equal measure, and two utterly obsessed radiant eyes desperately seeking the light outside, he stood his ground. Teeth - more teeth than should have been possible for one being - glistened, drawing closer and closer eager to tear apart anything that got near.

Every single noise and sight ploughed into him like a freight train, inciting every sense to urge him to run in fear and never look back. But somehow, he forced his feet to remain firm, even when a multitude of tendrils slapped against the inside of the doors, breaching the metre-wide gap still to close.

Either this would work, or the creature would be free.

He could look no longer at the nightmarish being. Closing his eyes, not even bothering to aim, Breaker raised the camera with a hoof, and smashed his chin down on the activation button.

Even through lidded eyes, his world went white. His legs gave way as the grinding sound of rock upon rock became muffled by an overwhelming howl from just ahead. And at the very last moment before stress and terror claimed the last of his consciousness, he heard a last dull thud from the earth...as stone crunched into stone...at last.

Underneath the grandiose archways and lofted ceilings of the Royal Palace, Breaker felt very small. Maybe he wouldn’t have noticed, but he had been made to wait outside of the chamber-room for almost half an hour, under the ever-watchful glances of the two royal guards-ponies standing to attention outside of the door.

Finally, he got the nod to enter.

Sitting at the opposite end of one of the largest tables Breaker had ever seen, Princess Luna watched on as he approached slowly. Quite understandably, Celestia was not present; she had taken vigil along with the other Bearers of Harmony at Twilight’s hospital bedside.

“Welcome to Canterlot, Mr Fold, regretfully not under more cordial circumstances,” Luna said, as she shuffled forth a piece of paper from the pile in front of her. “My sister sends her most heartfelt thanks for your actions, as do I.”

“Oh...well I uhh…” The sheer presence of his host, compounded by her sudden appreciation, left Breaker choking on the words he had originally planned in his head. “I did what anypony what have done I’m sure…”

Luna shook her head slightly. “I do not wish to discuss hypotheticals. Princess Twilight is alive, and her doctors are confident it will not be long before she regains consciousness. The fact she made it out at all is almost certainly down to you, and believe me when I say, Equestria is grateful. So grateful.”

Suddenly finding himself unable to look the Royal in the eye, Breaker stared instead at the wooden surface between them, trying hard to ignore the rising heat in his ears.

“If...sorry...when she wakes up, do you think she’ll remember what she saw?”

Luna hesitated for the briefest of moments.

“I would hope that she doesn’t. After such an event, she’ll need her friends’ best efforts to help her return to her usual duties. As for you, it is only right that you are to be rewarded for your quick thinking and bravery.” Luna levitated a small and previously inconspicuous wooden box off the table, and swung open it’s lid. Breaker had to narrow his eyes, but he could just about make out multiple glints of gold and precious gemstones.

“This is the Equestrian Medal of Heroism, our highest civilian honour - bestowed to those to have gone to the greatest lengths to protect and secure Equestria’s future. Only fourteen have ever been awarded, and now you and Mr Stroke are among them. Please take it, and wear it with pride.”

Breaker watched as Luna telekinetically floated the silk-lined box across to him, gently settling it down at the table edge. He made no move to take it.

“I’d uh….to be honest Your Majesty, I’d feel a lot better about accepting this knowing that we’d stopped whatever was down there for good.”

“The vault is closed, correct?”


“Then you have nothing more to fear my little pony. If you were not attacked at the site after closing the doors then we can at least guess the vault’s true purpose. I shall take steps to ensure the vault is never encountered again, and you shall keep your silence along with everypony else.”

Breaker bristled. Swearing an oath under pressure from the Royal Guard to keep all mention and knowledge of the vault secret had been bad enough, but knowing the order had come directly from the top put him on a serious edge. A similar feeling to being back in the dark tunnels crept back into his system.

“No offence your Majesty,” he said, remembering what little he could of royal protocol. “But that...those...it’s still alive. It has to be if it’s lived this long, and if it can do that to Princess Twilight then-”

SILENCE DAYWALKER!” Luna yelled with the force of a thunderbolt, rattling the hairs on Breaker’s neck. “Do not delve into matters that are beyond your station! Our decree is known, and let that be the end of it!”

Shocked, Breaker grasped for words as the remaining sheets of paper propelled by the blast settled around the table. After a few moments, not one response even remotely surfaced.

“If that is all, you are dismissed Mr Fold.” Luna snorted a deep breathe of composure. “I would advise you take only the memories of your heroics away with you today, and bury the rest as deep as you can. For if you don’t, I will know. Consciously or otherwise.”

He couldn’t look away that time. Luna’s narrowed eyes tore through him, and he was as if back in the vault once more. The dread and the darkness, feeling them as though they physical sensations, driving every synapse to run cold.

It wasn’t a similar feeling. It was exactly the same.

Breaker gripped his medal with quivering teeth, and didn’t look back once on his way out, leaving behind a stilled alicorn. After a few moment of silence, she rose and walked over to the bay windows, overlooking the rest of Canterlot.

Luna stopped at the edge and gazed not at the bright city, but onwards to the dark horizon. To a place far beyond view.

To the Whitetail Woods.

Author's Note:

And it's over at last! Phew!

What started as a comedy quickly devolved into this devious tale while writing at 2am, heavily, heavily influenced by my great liking for both The Writing on the Wall and Into the Depths. Spot the obvious reference to the latter.

Part of the critique I got for the original short was to flesh out the "monster" so to speak, and I do have a concrete idea for it in my head. If you'd like to guess what that was, please, go ahead. It's in the subtext (somewhere).

Cheers for reading! Please drop comments if any typos / errors still remains.

Comments ( 12 )

I saw but one single error:

For the second time, the whole room glowed with light, and Breaker thought in the moment moment that the camera had gone off.

That was quite impressive.

Nice! You definitely upped the ante from the original version, and to great effect.

Sure it's stopped for now, but how long until those vault doors fail?

Author Interviewer

Yeah, I definitely didn't give this a chance in the writeoff, and I think you really improved it regardless. :) Good buildup and good atmosphere, though I was a bit shocked at Luna's behavior in the final scene.

She knows what's down there. You could even say she knows the matter is....close to home.

Author Interviewer

Oh, wow, that was intense! Very nice job with the horror aspects. In surprised Breaker doesn't put up more resistance to keeping the story of the vault secret, given that he is a journalist.

Agreed, this really amps it up from the original. It's a little unfair to say that Twilight exploding caught my attention, because that was exactly due to it breaking my expectations from the original version, but (for me at least) that really reinvested me in the story for the entirely new second act.

Luna's behavior at the end has a lot of creepy implications, and I'm not sure it works to leave all of those unexplored (you'd think Celestia would have some very strong opinions on the matter, for one …), but the piece as a whole has quite definitely improved! :twilightsmile:

I merely wish this version had been the one to enter the contest. Oh well.

As a fellow poster once snarkly said, you either leave your questions unanswered like a pretentious knob, or spell everything out and treat your audience like idiots. The pattern that seems to be emerging from my past fics tells me I'm leaning on the former option. But the answer I have in my head would make for a very interesting sequel. So who knows eh?

The answer to every philosophical whatevers brought up could just as easily be answered with 'you're high as a kite, get off your pseudo-philosophical ass and get an intervention.'

First of all, this was absolutely wonderful. Fantastic writing, suspense, and description. I loved your use of OCs to tell a story based around Luna and Twilight. I loved everything about this.

But one thing is majorly... majorly bugging me.

What happened to Ink? And more importantly, what happened to his camera. He took pictures of whatever it was. In using the camera flash as a weapon, a picture was undoubtedly taken. Why is there no mention of him and why is he not receiving the same medal?

I am spook.

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