• Published 23rd Mar 2015
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A Guidepost in Equestria - Death Pony

An Undead Slayer from the Rifts universe finds himself in a strange land, hoping to prevent another catastrophic event caused by the evil out there in the Multiverse.

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A Visitor in Strange Lands

Bright, blinding energy slowly began to fade from around me as my physical being begun to anchor itself to my new destination. I say me, but I suppose that technically it was only my mind and my soul since my body was still being express shipped to this plane of existence. Soon enough, I was whole again and sitting comfortably with my legs crossed and both my physical and metaphysical eyes closed. (Staring into the void for too long is hazardous to one’s existential health.) As one of the remaining Undead Slayers in the Multiverse, it was common for me to appear in strange lands to fight on the side of Justice and for the preservation of Life and Freedom.

I owed it to them after all.

This time, I had noticed a new Guidepost in the Multiverse, far on the Outside. It was almost imperceptible due to the short duration of the weak Rift that had connected it to the web of the Multiverse, but I had managed to be in the right place and the right time to notice it pulsing like a new born star. I traveled here to make sure that the worst dangers from the Beyond didn’t get a foothold in this new plane.

I felt my Heart in Chains spell was still in effect (which I often referred to as my ‘Invulnerability’ Tattoo) as was my ‘there-is-no-traveler’ spell, something I had cobbled together to make living beings just equate me as part of the background and not something that required a second thought; as such these spells seemed to be keeping me from immediate harm and notice…at least it seemed that way or my first day here could be off to a terrible start. I could tell almost immediately that I’d never been to a dimension so far on the Outside in relation to my home plane before, but some of the excitement I was experiencing had been missing from my excursions for far too long. Every time I made one of these Jumps it was a bit of a gamble, but I’d been lucky enough and smart enough to survive for a very, very long time in this line of work. I mean, one would be hard pressed to find a more dangerous hive of scum and villainy that my own Prime Plane, but there was always a 00 on the Roulette Wheel of Life.

Sometimes the house took everything.

Let’s just say that when I was young my people were the light of civilization for the entire planet and quite possibly the whole universe until our arrogance led us into oblivion. It was enough of a reminder to keep me cautious, despite how I continued to improve myself through study and practice.

Slowly cracking one eye open, I found myself sitting on some lush dark grass in an unpopulated area and after sending out my consciousness to feel the ley energy in the area for other forms of life and finding myself essentially alone, I decided to stop feeding my Invulnerability field and the faint blue aura winked out of existence. I was surrounded by a dark and dense forest, the air thick with tension as sunlight seemed to simply be absorbed by the foreboding wood. What little blue sky I could see was empty save a few wispy clouds and the air was cool but comfortable. The Guidepost I had anchored to was amidst some kind of massive ruin, probably hundreds if not a thousand years old from the looks of it and it seemed to me that it was once a fortress, or perhaps a castle of some sort. I relaxed my muscles and opened my eyes the rest of the way since nothing was about to munch on my not-so-tender flesh and realized that the place was far more vibrant and colorful than any plane I had visited in recent memory. Even a glance down at myself showed me that my usual non-descript attire was just…sharper, more focused, and just plain newer looking. My mouth twisted up a bit like I’d bitten into a lemon.

Not sure what to make of that. Guess it’s orientation and information gathering time.’

Well it could be worse; it could be raining.’

Traveling alone for so long I had developed a habit of trying to use humor and the occasional snarky remark to fend off the crushing loneliness I knew was just waiting to break me down once and for all. Having spent a number of years near the end of the twentieth century living in Pre-Rifts America, I had also picked up a small cache of pop-culture material to keep myself entertained.

Obscure references were quite entertaining when insulting the forces of darkness in verbal sparring but their usefulness in friendly negotiation was only dubious at best.

Thankfully I could always remind myself of all the lives I’d saved over my long lifespan or I’m pretty sure I would have ended up taking greater and greater risks until I gave up my life storming the home plane of some evil Super-Intelligence in a blaze of glory. I felt that spending what was a practically an immortal life span basically alone was far more terrifying than a simple death ever could be. Due to experimental magic during the end of an Era, my body had simply stopped aging and I was physically stuck at somewhere around my thirtieth year for the rest of my existence, although it came with a cost. I could still die, having almost managed it many times, but old age was no longer one of my worries and the pressure of facing an endless sea of years grinding down my soul in bloody battle had finally started to wear me down.

I feared madness was my final destination at this rate.

I slowly stood and stretched to my full height of 193cm (or 6 foot 4 depending on what human culture you asked) cracking my neck with a slight twist and I began to stretch a bit more vigorously to improve the blood flow to my cramped muscles.

Also my ass hurt from sitting for so long with my legs crossed.

Checking my gear while I stretched, I saw my black utility boots were still in good repair and the silver-alloy caps on the toes were moderately shiny and scratch free. The black jeans I had picked up last time I was on Pre-Rifts Earth (or Old Earth as I sometimes referred to it) were still holding up, the small leather bands and holsters on my calves and ankles that held my various accoutrements such as throwing knives, holy water, and a few Techno-Wizard devices I had found practical were still in place. My shirt was a simple dark blue cotton tee covered mostly by the black duster-robe I had custom made.

Normally robes would be tied at the waist and drag the ground but I found that both too limiting in physical combat and too friar-esque. My robe ended at the knee and was always open; its edge was a crisp white fold with black piping. I had kept the deep hood though; it had a number of practical uses and I always felt more like a student of the magical arts when I could pull the cowl up and unnerve people by shining my mismatched eyes out from the darkness at them while expounding vague threats or exposition. I had been born with green eyes, but a near miss from a death spell during a particularly harrowing episode had drained the pigment from my right eye, leaving it a bright blue. Even my most potent healing magic didn’t seem to work to restore the color but I took the trade off as just payment for being damn lucky to still be sucking air. My hair was pulled back into a simple braid, hidden beneath my robe and its stark white color was almost as attention grabbing as my eyes but like I said; experimental magic often leads to unexpected side-effects, annoying side-kicks, and many stock villains.

I had altered and rune-stitched my clothing with various layers of spells to help prevent it from rotting off of me in hostile environments and to keep most dirt and sweat from lingering, saving me from having to carry around many changes of clothes. I had paid a fortune to turn my robe into an extra-dimensional storage space which I abused as much as I could. I smiled when I reached into my robe and verified it was functioning perfectly. Being able to carry an arsenal of weaponry and look practically unarmed in the meantime? Priceless. Even naked though, I was a force to be reckoned with.

Having verified that I was all here and still in good shape, I decided to look around and figure out exactly what I could do to protect this place. Younger adventurers often Dimensional Jumped on a whim, seeking whatever winds of glory they could stumble into but I preferred to look for signs of new civilizations that had learned to reach for the Multiverse and at least warn them about the bigger game they had just thrown themselves into. I stretched out my mind along the ley lines of this world to feel for conflict and suffering I came up nearly empty.

I was honestly quite stunned.

Echoes of pain and suffering are often felt in the ley energy that stretches across a planet, even old sites of violence usually left behind a dirty smear on the Æthere but to my continued disbelief, I couldn’t find more than the slightest twinges of sadness or bitterness. Nothing as common as even hatred seemed to be readily available.

‘I’m not sure what scares me more; the lack of even the most basic of evils or me showing up here because it may be on the way. Whatever the case, something happened here that drew the wrong kind of attention from the wrong side of the tracks; dimensionally speaking.’

‘I’ve lived with just how frightening that was too.’

I knew that intelligent life was here on this world, I could ascertain that much from strumming the ley lines nearby but…near complete innocence for miles and miles? In all my centuries of Riftwalking, I had never even conceived of such a place. I would have to be extra careful here as I felt like a Weapon of Mass Destruction waking up in a children’s nursery and I was a little worried I would corrupt the indigenous life forms simply by being here. I had been lucky enough to notice this plane when it first appeared on my Planar Map and knowing how enticing the scavengers would find a new playground, I refused to simply bail out. If I was a WMD, whatever was coming could be a Global Killer by comparison, a sad reminder that I couldn’t save them all and too often I was forced to bitterly retreat while another plane was plunged into misery and death.

It was times like those that I missed my companions the most.

Eventually I fought off my dark musings and the curious scholar buried under all my baggage decided I just had to meet the kind of beings that didn’t seem to suffer the full concepts of murder, torture, or slavery…at least from my initial findings they didn’t.

I had always done my best over the centuries to do the mysterious stranger cliché; pop in unexpectedly, defeat the trespassing Evil, and then disappear into the night with a slight flourish while trying to avoid impacting their various technologies, thaumaturgy, cultures, tribes, or governments too severely. Maybe not Prime Directive bad like some show in a version of Old Earth I’d seen, but there were Greater Forces out there that might decide one was being too cavalier with dimensional interference and backhand you into the great nothingness as a stern warning. However, I was running into situations where not warning the denizens of their new dangerous position as initiated members of the trans-dimensional community came back to haunt me and I knew I needed to change my tactics.

Feeling that scaring the locals by strolling around was unlikely to earn their trust, I pulled up an Invisibility spell from memory and after cloaking myself in the illusion, I started walking along a ley line that seemed to lead to a Nexus point where a settlement(?) seemed to be. It felt too small to be proper capital or city but too large to qualify as a simple campsite. Before too long, I passed out of the woods and the oppressive air seemed to relent grudgingly. After a couple of hours of marching at a steady pace I found myself on the edge an orchard of some kind, rows and rows of trees (I guessed apple trees from the exaggerated shape and color of the fruit) were lined up and many were loaded with ripe-looking treats and ready for harvest. I admit to not being an expert on the subject, but trees that spawned different kinds of apples on the same branches didn’t click with what little I knew about agriculture. I just shook my head and figured it was probably par for the course this far Outside.

As I continued to cautiously cross the farmland I saw something my centuries of experience hadn’t quite prepared me for. It looked like a miniature horse or maybe a…pony from Old Earth but only its basic form matched up with my personal experiences of them. After all, one of my most commonly used Tattoo Animals was a large gray mare for transportation purposes. For example, the pseudo-pony’s coat was an orange color not usually associated with living creatures and instead of tough hardened hooves at the end of its legs as one might expect, they seemed to simply come to a softer, rounded end. She, I determined, was wearing a brown Stetson hat one might see in Western Earth shows on top of a head of blonde hair tied up into a pony tail. Then I noticed her actual tail was also tied into a pony tail (I smirked at that, points for comical style) and her face showed clear signs of white freckles which was both cute and confusing on fur under a pair of eyes that seemed too large for her head. Finally, on her flank was a… (Tattoo was the first thing to pop into my mind as a Tattooed Mage but then I conceded it could be a brand of ownership or a cosmetic marking) of three apples forming a triangle. I wondered about that last detail but decided to file it away for later.
With a determined look the…cow-pony(?) turned and bucked the tree hard with her hind legs, causing several apples to rain down in her waiting baskets.

‘Seems she’s a farmer-type and is gathering apples. I deduce; she’s probably an apple farmer.’

‘I’m a genius, self-high-five.’

‘Or maybe she’s less a farmer and more like a serf or slave, although I don’t see any physical or magical restraints and there’s the lack of oppressive aura. She’s apparently a strong farmer-type at that, seeing as how she’s planning to carry what looks like half her weight in apples. Judging from what I feel, the gravity here is Earth similar but maybe she’s physically denser than she appears or these apples are lighter than I realized.’

I mulled over the idea of introducing myself to this creature, but I needed more information first. For all I knew, she was incapable of speech or might turn hostile when faced with a stranger trespassing on her work area. I wasn’t a great psionic Mind Melter so peeking into her innermost thoughts was outside my current abilities. While I stood there digesting what I’d seen she wiped her brow in a very human-like gesture, even giving the expected sigh while doing it and managed to lift the other basket onto her back, using her legs. At least she was wearing the smile of one who didn’t mind honest but hard work and I leaned even further away from slave and more towards a simple farmer.

‘Gravity manipulation perhaps? Or she’s channeling some force that allows her to grip objects without fingers… Either way, it seems to classify her as a magical or psionic creature. Also, her legs seem to be akin to double-jointed giving her a range of motion more similar to humans as well. How Interesting.’

As she walked (trotted?) off with her apples I continued along the ley line, heading to what felt like a gathering of more life forms. Soon enough I found the edge of the farmland complete with a white fence to mark its borders and beyond that a road leading to what I assumed was my first destination. The pseudo-pony from earlier had only come up to about my chest give or take, so hopping over the fence wasn’t difficult. I wasn’t sure if the pony was a caste of laborer or if the entire planet was simply full of orange ponies. I found the idea both humorous and slightly off-putting. A civilization of peaceful herbivores might consider my presence to be an unnatural disaster of epic proportions if handled poorly.

After all, I was personally responsible for destroying tens of thousands of creatures (living, un-living, undead and probably everything outside those categories) in my crusade against the dark of the Multiverse. The blood on my hands would probably never wash clean, and even if I knew that everything I had done was for the right reasons, fighting and killing were never something I relished after my initial rage had burned out when I first started. To many in the planes visited, I was just as terrifying as the monsters I battled. My being an omnivore would just be the icing on my scary-cake in this dimension.

To be fair though, while I’d eaten many different animals in my various travels I’d never eaten horsemeat or a sapient creature, considering how the first betrayed the trust of my own mount, Stormcloud and the latter went against the grain of my existence. Stormcloud couldn’t talk per se, but being a magical construct in the form of a Tattoo and powered by my inner strength…I shrugged mentally. We could feel each other’s emotions on a very basic level and that was plenty for me to view the idea of horse consumption as distasteful, even in dire situations. I lamented that meat may be off the menu during my stay here and continued down the road towards a large group of entities.

However, I needed information about the world I was in and even more importantly; I needed to know if I was the first Riftwalker to reach this plane.

This time I intended to succeed in my self-proclaimed title of Warden.

Eventually I came to a bridge on the outskirts of a town. Clear flowing water passed beneath the wooden bridge and several buildings of various styles were visible. The closer I got to the place, the more of its inhabitants I saw and the more surreal the experience became. Not just orange ponies, but a Technicolor explosion of them with numerous hair styles and various makings on their flanks. Once I was close enough to determine that some were in fact speaking to each other I silently activated my Eyes of Knowledge Tattoo, hoping to gather more information. Sure enough, I could understand what was being said as I slowly and carefully walked through the town. My spell even allowed me to make out the banner sign over the road which simply read ‘Ponyville’.

‘Okay, so naming conventions here are a bit simplistic perhaps? Or this was their first settlement and they just went with the flow…‘

‘Seriously though, “Ponyville”? ‘

I found it amusing and struggled not to laugh out loud.

Some of the denizens of the place walked close enough for me to overhear them.

“-ers, but you know how she can be.” One pony giggled to her friend who only nodded sagely.

“Delivery for you!” piped a gray wall-eyed pony from another part of town, somehow without her speech being heavily affected by the letter she held in her mouth to a lilac colored pony on the street. From her pouch I placed her as a postal pony.

‘Pony Express anyone?’ *rimshot*

‘I know, I know…that was bad.’

As I moved deeper into the town while dodging colorful ponies, I felt a pair of eyes on me. After quickly double checking that I was still invisible, I began to search the area for who was watching me.

‘Damn, I hadn’t counted on any of them being able to see the invisible. Just stay cool and-‘

That was when I noticed a bright pink pony with dark pink hair standing about ten feet away and staring intently at me with a smile on her face. Her blue eyes showed no fear. I slowly tilted my head to the left until my ear was almost touching my shoulder. Her reaction was to mirror me completely. Amused, I raised one hand slowly and waved and she somehow managed to copy me without falling over.

“Pinkie, do I even what to know what you’re doing?” I looked over to see a small cyan pegasus floating near the pink one, her rainbow colored mane and tail causing my eye to twitch in disbelief. Since ‘Pinkie’ was still mimicking me she was also facing her friend.

“I’m communicating with the mysterious two-legged alien over there Dash! We’re playing charades and so far I’m winning!” she replied, bubbling over with cheerful exuberance.

“The alien...” ‘Dash’ responded deadpan as she stared at what looked like empty air to her. “Pinkie Pie, I don’t see anything th- Wait a sec! Are you trying to prank me again?” Her smile seemed sly and self-assured.

Without waiting and suffering an uncharacteristic bout of madness, I rose up one leg until it was perpendicular to the ground and slowly began to turn in circles with one hand over my head and the one called Pinkie Pie not missing a beat, began to turn as well somehow challenging my understanding of pony-physics. I liked her.

“Nopey-nope! Invisible aliens are invisible silly! If you could see him then they could see him and then everypony would be all like ‘AHHH~’ and ‘EEEK~’ and then the alien might be like ‘RAWR~’ or he might cry, and I don’t want to see the alien cry Dash. Think of the aliens Dash!” Pinkie Pie delivered this with the range of a top-class actress giving each nuance the right focus and I damn near lost it right there.

I figured I had messed around enough for now.

I had a huge range of options available to extricate myself from this situation but I didn’t want to risk casting spells on the ponies, not even a simple sleep spell, because I felt it would be rude to start messing with peaceful inhabitants who weren’t trying to hurt me. Instead I slowly came to a stop in front of Pinkie Pie, bowed in the most dramatic stage flourish I could manage and cast one of my favorite and rarest spells.

I Time Slipped.

Everything around me froze as I stepped outside the time stream and activating my Heart with Small Wings Tattoo, I ran at a top speed of around one-hundred eighty miles an hour around the side of a building some distance from the pink one in the sparse seven seconds I had. I couldn’t harm anyone while time slipping but it was handy for quick getaways. Sure enough, the spell ended and a surprised Pinkie Pie could be heard exclaiming that I had vanished, perhaps to my home planet. I think I could hear the rainbow pony hoof(?) her forehead from my hiding place.

‘As fun as that was, I just had a close encounter with no warning. That’s quite sloppy of me. Not to mention I’ve been using too much magic in such a short amount of time.’

‘At least she had a sense of humor about the whole thing but the jigs up. Now I need to find a way to diplomatically explain my presence here. Sarcasm free even.’

I quietly sighed and weighed my options. I would have loved to metamorphosis into a pony myself but Undead Slayers like me were unable to be physically transformed by any means. This was a safety measure to prevent the possibility of any Slayer being turned into a vampire, our natural enemy. An undead-Undead Slayer if you will. I shuddered at the nightmares that would bring to entire galaxies. I was however quite good at illusion and mental trickery thanks to time spent in one of the fantasy realms of the Multiverse and getting to study under an actual Illusionist made me quite proficient at warping perceptions. I could fashion an illusionary body that affected all five senses, making it seem as real as an actual pony. Naturally, this was far more subtle and powerful than simple invisibility and the drain would be much larger, but if the Pink One had actual True Sight…well, I guess it wouldn’t matter at that point and my cover would be blown.

First, I needed a…Stallion I guessed was what male ponies were called, that I could use as a baseline for my illusion. Scanning the crowd I did pick out a couple males and was able to extrapolate what I needed for a basic body considering their bigger size and more muscular frame. After tuning my eyes to the magical energy spectrum and watching the locals for a while, I was able to hypothesize that the winged pegasi were using magic for flight and weather manipulation and the earthbound ponies without horns were using magic for body enhancement and Earth manipulation, making them stronger and sturdier than the others.

It was the unicorns that intrigued me.

They were the spell users of this place, channeling energy through the horn to cast spells. So now I knew what kind of male to form, but the brand on the flank was still a mystery. From what I had observed over the last couple of hours from my hiding place, only the very young ones lacked the marking and that meant I needed to come up with something for my avatar to avoid drawing too much attention. After musing for a few more minutes, I decided to use one of my Tattoos as a brand. Since the theme seemed to be occupational or interest related concerning the markings I figured my Phoenix Rising from the Flames would work as a magical-healing-pony mark. At least, that was what I was going to tell anyone who asked. I was a mystic healer, traveling around and looking for work. Sounded just vague enough for me to flow with the story as needed.

‘Perhaps my name could be…Magus. I’m Magus Mender, proficient purveyor of potent pony panaceas. Considering the naming conventions I’ve seen so far, it seems passable.’

‘I sound like a snake oil sales…pony, I suppose. When in pony-Rome…don’t look a gift pony in the mouth and just pony up.’

‘Okay, that was bad and I should feel bad.’

With the last piece clicking in place I focused my Potential Psychic Energy into a mass and fashioned a sturdy midnight-blue unicorn but I edged more to a lean athleticism rather than the powerful plow horse build since I was playing the scholar archetype, with a white braided mane and bushy white tail sporting a flaming phoenix rising from the flames mark on the rump. The artist in me left the eyes mismatched green and blue since my subconscious has done it without my realization. To finish the job I erased most of my actual presence so that anything I said or did would all seem to originate from the ‘Magus’ avatar instead of me and added a saddlebag to help sell the traveler story. To finish the job I constructed a telekinetic shell to prevent solid objects from simply passing through my avatar and when I finished I felt the drain on my magic reserves telling me I couldn’t keep this disguise up for extended periods of time. After looking over my work one last time, I shrugged and figured the only way to know for sure was to try it out.

Magus walked out into the street and watched the traffic patterns a bit, seeing if anyone paid any undue attention to him. While he did get an occasional glance from passersby, he assumed it was just a new face in town thing and not a declaration of being discovered as a fake. As he trotted down the street, giving a friendly smile and nod to those who looked his way, he noticed the orange cow-pony from earlier in the day, selling apples and apple products (naturally) from a mobile stand. Since this pony was the first being he had seen since entering this world and was fairly close to the Guidepost for this dimension, he figured she might be a good starting point for information gathering.

‘Well, here’s the acid test,’ he thought at the last second.

“Hello there. I was curious, how much is an apple, if you don’t mind my asking?” Magus smiled while asking.

“No trouble ‘tall stranger. Ah’m sellin apples at five fer two bits today,” she replied, a distinctive southern accent usually found in the United States flavoring her words. Applejack had never met this pony before, but the Apple family never turned down new business.

‘Curiouser and curiouser, an accent I never thought to experience outside of Earth and they do use an exchange service based on currency,’ Magus thought.

“Ah, I see. Bits is it?” Magus sighed. “Unfortunately, I’ve only just arrived in town today, with not a bit to my name. Perhaps you might know where a new face could earn a few bits?” Magus asked, putting on a sheepish smile.

The cow-pony blinked in poorly hidden surprise. “No bits? Well shucks sugarcube, you must’a had quite a time on the trail I reckon.” Applejack began to wonder if he was a beggar or some bitless drifter looking for a hoofout.

Magus gave a good natured chuckle while raising a hoof in front of him. “Entirely my fault I’m afraid, my organizational skills aren’t always as sharp as I’d like them to be at times. I simply decided to set out on a trip and see the world, as it were. I’m a healer by trade, but without knowing the fair value of my services, I fear I may have shortchanged myself a bit.”

“A healer huh? Like a doc?” The cow-pony seemed suddenly interested in what she was hearing.

‘So professional medical care is not completely unknown here, check,’ he thought.

Magus coughed a bit with a mild look of embarrassment. “Well yes, I do have some training with standard medical procedures, but my focus is magical healing. Magus Mender is my name, and magical cure-alls my game.” Magus gave a slight bow and grinned up at the apple farmer.

The apple vendor squinted her eyes and tiled her head while rubbing her chin with one hoof, obviously thinking about what Magus said. “Well, mah name’s Applejack mister Mender and if what ya’ll telling me is true ah might just have a job for ya, be willin to pay in food and maybe a few bits if yer interested.” She vaguely recalled that healing magic was supposedly rare, but it was hardly her area of expertise. That was more Twilight’s thing.

‘She isn’t foolishly trusting but is willing to negotiate services, that’s…good and bad. They could probably show more caution with strangers around here,’ Magus noted.

Magus smiled. “Splendid! And what, pray tell dear Applejack can Magus assist you with?”

Applejack sighed and bowed her head, pulling her hat down a bit as if she had to tell this tale more than once and it was becoming routine. “Mah brother Big Mac done gone and hurt his’elf tryin to keep mah little sister from harm when we was tearin down an old barn. The docs in town laid him up for a couple weeks, but with applebuck season already started…”

‘They practice self-sacrifice, obviously they are skilled architects, and use scheduled agriculture I assume, also good to know. She doesn’t seem tainted or confused and I’m not getting any fear or evasion in her aura or words. Seems I may have gotten here first after all, thank the gods,’ Magus thought, his hope rising a bit.

Magus nodded. “Of course, say no more my friend, I think I can be of assistance here. When you like, I am willing to follow you to your brother’s bedside and offer my services.” His smile was genuine and warm. He didn’t exactly know what applebuck season was but it didn’t really matter and he could hazard an educated guess; her brother needed help.

It was pretty simple, really.

Applejack smiled as Magus. “Ah sure do appreciate it mister Mender.”

“Magus, please. Mister Mender makes me sound like an old pony you see.” Magus winked at her with a grin.

Applejack chuckled and Magus noticed a slight blush. Perhaps winking was too forward in this world but her response to flirting filled in some more blanks for his assessment. “Well now Magus, ah can’t say ya look all that old from where I’m standing. How long ya been walkin’ round?” She was packing up her cart as we talked, getting ready to quit for the day.

Magus had already heard of a city not too far away while eavesdropping the last few hours that seemed large enough to avoid too much scrutiny. “Originally I was from a small section of Manehatten (classic), one of the poorer sections I’m afraid. Seeing that a fresh start might be a good way to find my way in the world, I set out only a couple of months ago, taking my time and trying to drum up some business. Sadly, it seems not many were willing to trust me at my word as a magical healer. I’m afraid I might have been slightly naïve about my chances.” Magus was lightly probing Applejack with empathetic magic to gauge her reaction, and he noticed that while she didn’t believe everything he said, she also hadn’t decided to outright consider him a liar either. Magus decided to take the initiative and try to head off any problems.

‘She’s more astute than I first assumed. Excellent! This is the type of being that will make a useful ally if things go the way I hope,’ he thought in excitement.

Magus sighed before she could comment and looked over at her while his head was down. “I’m afraid my youth was…checkered. So, I hope you’ll forgive me if I…withhold certain details about myself. I really am trying to start a new life, a better life.” He mustered a little shame in his voice to sell the story. It seemed Applejack was quite the sharp pony, but his deception managed to do the trick as her budding suspicion seemed to pull back into genuine interest.

“Well shucks sugarcube, ah’ve made a few mistakes maself, so don’t you worry none about folks judgin ya too harsh ‘round these parts. Ponyville might just be a good place to start a new life.” Applejack worried she had almost fallen into her habit of prying into folk’s lives too much again and mentally shook herself.

They traveled down the town street leading to Sweet Apple Acres in a comfortable silence for a few moments before Magus decided to engage his companion in conversation.

“Thank you Applejack, that’s mighty kind of you to say.” Magus gave another warm smile. “So your brother; is he in a medical facility or was he well enough to stay at home?”

“Big McIntosh is at home, trusted up like a turkey. Hurt his back an one’a his legs is broke, nothing he won’t come back from, just not soon enough fer being useful anytime soon.” Applejack said this with a bit of melancholy in her voice and Magus could tell she was doing her best to hide her real feelings about how worried she was.

Magus noticed an honest to goodness gingerbread house out of the corner of his eye and nodded while looking thoughtful. “Yes, well have no fear Applejack. I will do my best to fix your brother right up and the applebuck season should go more smoothly for you I wager.” Magus was about to turn to look at his benefactor when his vision was filled with the face of the Pink One.

‘Well, this could be bad,’ Magus thought in surprise.

Stepping back and falling on his rump, Magus leaned back from the blue eyes and pink mane of the grinning pony and waited to see what happened next.

“Hiya Applejack! Who’s your friend? I’ve never seen this pony before!” Pinkie never took her eyes from the new stallion while talking to her farm-pony friend; she stood only inches from Magus as if appearing out of thin air.

‘And now the moment of truth.’ Magus thought darkly. He waited to let Applejack answer.

Applejack turned with a wry smile and looked at her pink party pal. “Pinkie Pie, this here’s Magus and he’s new in town. We’re headdin over to Sweet Apple Acres t’ see if’n he can help out Big Mac. Magical healin’ and all that.”

Pinkie’s eyes got even bigger, although that had seemed physically impossible before just now. “Wowie-wow! A magic-healing pony!? Are you a cleric? Or ooohhh maybe you’re a shaman or a priest! Maybe even a druid! Then you could change into a big ole bear or a lion! RAWR~” With her final cute roar she tackled Magus to the ground and pinned him down, his mind trying to sort through the exchange before answering.

‘That was rather adorable, but they’re seriously lacking in danger sense. How peaceful this world must be,’ he thought ruefully to himself.

Chuckling up at his captor Magus replied, “No, just a student of magic with a penchant for healing I’m afraid. Nothing as adventurous as…those other things you mentioned.”

Pinkie’s mane seemed to deflate a little. “Aww! I wanted to ride a big ole bear into town.” Her disappointment quickly faded in the next moment. “That’s okay! That still means a new friend and another party! A welcome to Ponyville Magus-the-Medical-Magician party! I can’t wait!” She seemed to be so excited even her tail was wagging.

Magus just smiled up at her from the ground. “That’s sounds quite generous of you Pinkie, but business before pleasure and all that. I need to look at Applejack’s brother before we can plan any parties. Also, you’re still on top of me.” Magus winked with a grin, causing Pinkie to bounce off with a slight blush, just now realizing how compromising their position was a moment ago. Winking was definitely considered flirting, Magus noted with interest. He was curious enough to consider taking notes on how romance worked in this new world if he had time.

It seemed to Magus that he was an attractive sight by pony standards from the last two reactions due to his harmless winking. He just hoped he hadn’t made himself stand out too much in that respect.

‘Play it soft man, they don’t seem to mean any harm.’ Magus thought. Even if they became violent with Magus, he was just an avatar.

Climbing up off the ground, he tried to awkwardly dust himself off a bit before smiling at the Pink One and continuing down the road. Pinkie Pie was bouncing along next to them, apparently she had joined the party on their quest to heal big brother.

“Can you only heal ponies or can you also heal other things, like trees and animals? Fluttershy has aaallll kinds of animal friends that she helps out when they get hurt and Applejack lives on a FARM! And their farm has TREES, and I guess even trees can get sick! Are you also a tree and animal druid Mister M&M?” Pinkie asked, somehow without even taking a breath.

Magus blinked at the pink pony. “I’d say please just call me M&M, but instead I’ll just ask you to not call me ‘Mister’, I’d rather not feel any older than I need to. As for plants and animals, I can heal both of them in a sense, but I’m not a miracle worker or anything.”

Applejack was slightly stunned, “Ya’ll can heal trees? Like trees that done been knocked over or broke in’a storm?”

Magus looked at the farmer with a kind smile. “I can’t return life to a dead tree Applejack, but if it is only damaged… Well, I can usually make sure the tree will recover; if that helps.”

From her expression, one might think the farm pony had been told Magus was a genie with three wishes for her.

Soon enough they were passing what Magus at first assumed was an actual carrousel, but instead turned out to be a house or business simply built to resemble one. While wondering what kind of beasts one would ride on an actual merry-go-round in a world full of ponies, a while unicorn with an obviously well groomed deep violet mane was stepping outside the building and closing the door behind her. Soon enough she noticed her friends walking past her boutique.

“Applejack, darling, what-“the unicorn began, until she noticed the stallion she’d not met before. Her eyes widened a bit before she could contain herself and then she slid into a well-practiced smile. “Dear Applejack, who is your new friend? I was sure I knew every stallion in Ponyville…” she let her voice trail off, fluttering her eyelashes at Magus.

‘Quite the charmer this one is. But I’ve got a little charm of my own,’ Magus chuckled mentally.

“Magus Mender madam; May you memorize my melodic moniker.” Magus said with a deep bow and in a cultured but friendly voice while giving a slight flourish with one of his hooves. “And who, might I ask, do I have the pleasure of meeting today, if I may be so bold?” He smiled up at the unicorn with only a slight bedroom-eyes look. He wasn’t trying to offend or lead her on but she was an obvious flirt.

The unicorn tittered with a slight blush. “Oh my, and a gentlecolt too? I must say it’s not often I meet a cultured pony here in Ponyville and your eyes are simply stunning! Green and blue eyes, oh I can just feel some inspiration coming on from looking into them! Ahem, I am Rarity and this is my Carrousel Boutique, for I am the resident fashionista of Ponyville, premiere provider of excellence for all of your fashion needs.” She was quite proud of her business.

Clothing for ponies. That’s…unexpected, considering they’re all naked for the most part.’ Magus noted.

“That’s rather fascinating Lady Rarity. I confess I’m rather lax in my studies of fashion but when I consider that you’re building your reputation and standing outside of a huge city, it just reinforces the image of an artisan who seeks quality over quantity and I have every confidence that you are bound for great success, seeing your honest passion for your craft.” His smile was warm without any trace of mockery. Seeing others truly passionate about their lot in life always helped ease his burden and made it all feel worth it, even if only for a short time.

Rarity looked like Magus had just sprouted wings and offered her a ride to the moon. She slowly brought one hoof up to cover her mouth while looking poleaxed before she whispered loudly, “That may be the nicest thing I’ve ever heard about my chosen profession.” She recovered quickly and dropped her hoof from in front of her face with a slight clearing of the throat, “Don’t misunderstand me darling, my friends have always supported me, but to hear a stranger say something like that… Most ponies find clothing to be little more than a curious accessory or a symbol of status.” She was getting misty-eyed and Magus worried he may have laid it on a little thick.

Magus slowly walked up to the unicorn and gently placed a hoof on her shoulder. “As long as you believe in yourself dear Lady, others will follow your example. No creature of a serious nature could mock another who tries their best at what they love,” he said gently, trying to reassure her. He couldn’t see the others behind him but Pinkie Pie was still bouncing and sporting a huge grin while Applejack was staring with her mouth agape, obviously surprised at how serious the conversation had become without notice.

Magus was unprepared for the sudden hug from Rarity, but he just gently patted her back while she collected herself.

‘I guess that could have gone worse,’ Magus thought with a smile.

A few moments later, Rarity stepped back blushing furiously. “My apologies darling, I was just… I must look a mess!” She was wiping her face with a lace edged cloth, fussing over her makeup.

Magus chuckled warmly. “Quite all right my Lady, quite all right. However, I think I’ve held up my current employer long enough with my long-windedness,” and trotted over next to Applejack, who had recovered herself just in time and was looking at Magus with an inscrutable look. “My apologies Applejack, I may have said too much but I’m known to speak my mind without filtering. Call it a character flaw if you will.” He gave the farmer a sheepish smile.

“Don’t ya’ll worry ‘bout that Magus. I‘s just…surprised ya said such a nice thang to somepony ya just met. That was mighty kind of ya partner.” She was smiling and patted Magus’ shoulder with a gentle hoof as she said it. Magus had gone up a little in her estimation.

“I don’t understand darling, what is Magus doing for you? He doesn’t seem the…rustic type, no offense,” Rarity offered.

“None taken my Lady,” Magus grinned.

Applejack rolled her eyes. “He’s a magic-healin’ pony and we’re gon’ to Sweet Apple Acres ta look at Big Mac, since Magus here says he can fix him up right proper.”

Pinkie Pie popped her head up in between the two girls and added, “He’s a druid who heals trees and animals too! But he won’t turn into a bear or a lion I guess,” she groused at the end.

Applejack gave a disgruntled snort and turned to continue on down the road with her cart while Magus just barked a short laugh and turned to follow, leaving the unicorn to look at the three retreating ponies a moment before bolting after them. “Druid? Trees? Whatever are you talking about Pinkie dear?”

As Rarity moved up to join the group she looked at Magus in askance. “I’m sorry darling but what is a druid?”

Magus smiled at her and gave a small shake of his head. “I’m a student of magic actually, and I seem to excel at healing others. Pinkie Pie has taken it upon herself to refer to me as a druid because I mentioned I can heal things aside from ponies.”

“Healing magic? Darling, that’s absolutely fabulous! That’s an exceedingly rare talent among unicorns. I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure of meeting one before today.” Rarity seemed quite excited with the prospect of meeting such a special pony.

Magus gave a slight sigh and bowed his head a bit. “I’m afraid that most of my learning has been…experience and observation rather than guided tutelage. I didn’t enjoy the most…comfortable lifestyle growing up and most of what I know was given only through the kindness of one elder unicorn that lived in the poor district I grew up in. He was stern but fair. I’m afraid that once he passed on, I found myself wanting to leave Manehatten, which I did only recently. Seems I have a lot more to learn than what I know simply watching and mimicking how the ‘better half’ lives. At least I seem to have cultured a robust vocabulary, sneaking around the university districts of the city as a child.” Magus was trying to keep his background to an unlucky orphan with a talent in mimicry and a thirst for knowledge, but Applejack was still a constant worry since she seemed quite sharp and perceptive.

‘I am starting to feel rather bad about all the lies,’ Magus thought.

What he didn’t expect from the three mares was the sense of compassion and sadness that seemed to roll off of them and into his empathy magic when they realized he was admitting to growing up as an abandoned foal. Even the bouncy pink pony seemed to deflate and stop bouncing when she realized what he was saying. Before they started to feel too terrible, he decided to act.

“Now girls, I get the sense you want to feel bad for me but everypony has trials they must overcome in life. I’m here, and I choose to believe I am the pony I am today because of the life I’ve led. I won’t demand anything from you but I do ask you not pity me. I’m seeking a new life and that means I’d like to look forward to the future and not focus on the past.” Magus smiled but his eyes were firm. He didn’t want anyone selling him short or sidetracking him because of a non-existent childhood story but he needed a convenient excuse for not knowing things that others might take for granted in this world. It was vital he get a sit-rep on this world before too much time passed. He still needed to do some research on who ran the show here and how to get in touch with them.

Still, these ponies were a fantastic reminder of the days when Magus had friends of his own, all those years ago. He really did miss the witty banter and having someone who would watch his back when things got bad.

His speech was met with a surprise group hug, causing Magus to freeze up for a moment before laughing. “Thanks everypony, but I'm fine, we’re all fine. Let’s not use up too much daylight now.” He was gently removing himself from the hugs while patting the ponies on their backs. Magus was still surprised by how physical these ponies could get at times.

“Silly-filly Magus, the law of conservation of energy states you can’t use up too much daylight!” Pinkie Pie offered helpfully. Her two friends just looked at her confused.

Laughing, Magus just rubbed the top of her head with a hoof. “It’s simply a figure of speech, but don’t ever change Pinkie Pie.”

“Okie-dokie-loki!” She replied while bouncing along the road. Her friends just rolled their eyes at her continued antics.

Magus couldn’t understand how he’d gotten so close to these ponies in such a short time, but his guard was still up for the most part. They just seemed to make it easy to like them and it was a good feeling. He inwardly shuddered to think they might have some bad news coming soon, but he would be there to stand with them, even if they didn’t know it. In the back of his mind though, he knew things were shaping into something he dreaded slightly.

They continued down the road a bit in a comfortable silence as the houses of Ponyvillie began to thin out and open out into the surrounding countryside. However, something that began as an itch in the back of Magus’ mind blossomed into a faint warning. He stopped and cocked his head to the side looking around for the source.

“What’s wrong darling? Is everything alright?” Rarity asked. Applejack and Pinkie Pie were looking at Magus in concern.

“I don’t know I feel…” There, behind them somewhere he felt something approaching at high speeds but he didn’t see anything along the road. Looking around he did notice something in the sky and it was approaching quickly.

“Look out!” a faint voice cried from the air above, resolving into a familiar cyan blur speeding towards them all in a dizzying spiral complete with a multicolored vapor trail, but obviously out of control and heading for a spectacular crash.

Quickly Magus moved in front of the rest of the ponies and crouched down low on all four legs tensing his muscles and doing quick calculations. Just before the inevitable crash he leapt high into the air and tackled the falling pegasus, rolling onto this back to cushion the fall and pulling her in close while reinforcing his outer shell with some softer layers and adjusting his position with telekinesis.

He couldn’t actually get hurt after all.

They landed hard as her momentum drove the two of them downward at a newly adjusted angle, the Rainbow colored pony landing on top of Magus as they impacted the ground and slid about eighty feet by his estimation before coming to a stop. His companions shouted various things as they ran towards them. Magus was too busy restoring his telekinetic shell to pay much attention to the outburst before he checked on the one he was cradling.

‘Dammit, that just sapped a lot of magic I could have used! I’m still good but I may have to cut this visit short if this keeps up too much longer,’ Magus thought.

After a few seconds of dizzy groaning the pegasus lay against Magus’ chest, her eyes closed. “Ouch! Ugh…that could have gone better… Triple axel rolls my flank… Wait, why is the ground so…warm? What the buck happened…?” she was muttering, still dazed.

“Rainbow Dash, ya’ll all right? Just what the hay was you tryin’ to do ya featherbrain? Look’it what ya done to poor Magus,” Applejack said as she ran up to the pair, leaving her cart in the road.

“Magus dear, are you alright?! Goodness that looked just dreadful! You were so gallant by catching poor Rainbow Dash and sacrificing yourself!” Rarity was beaming at the pinned stallion while her magic fanned her face with a little lace fan.

Pinkie Pie was bouncing around in a frenzy. “That was sooooo cool! Magus was like WHEE~ and then he was like YOINK~ and THEN he was all KA-BOOM~! That was a great catch! I wonder if pegasus catching is a sport ‘cause you would be soooo good at it!”

“What?” Rainbow Dash said as she moved her head up and tried to open her eyes. “What are you guys talking about now-“ Once her eyes were open she found herself staring into a pair of mismatched eyes only inches from her face, looking at her in undisguised concern while apparently lying on top of said stallion.

“Are you alright?” the stallion asked gently, still holding her gingerly against his chest.

She didn’t move or say anything for several seconds, although her face seemed to be heating up quickly while her brain struggled to put the pieces together. “Uh…umm…” She slowly pressed her front hooves against Magus’ chest and pushed herself up and away from his face before placing her forelegs on the ground on either side of him.

Magus took the initiative and putting his forelegs on the ground, he slid out from underneath her. Once he rolled over onto his feet and trotted a couple of steps away, he began dusting himself off nonchalantly while looking down at his chest, giving her time to recover from any embarrassment without his gaze on her.

Blushing furiously, Rainbow Dash started to stand up but gave a sharp cry of pain and fell over with a mumbled curse, holding her back left leg in pain. A solid bruise was visible from the hard impact, although it was far better than her potential injuries from crashing into the ground without help.

Her friends circled around her in concern and started talking to her all at once. Magus waited a moment and then approached the group. “I’m a healer miss; if you like I can help.” His comment caused them to all fall silent.

“It’s my leg, *hiss* I think I sprained it pretty good.” Rainbow said, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears as she fought to stay tough. Crying was beneath her.

“Let’s have a look, shall we?” Magus said, now in his clinical mode. He mimed scanning her leg with a spell then nodded and gave a detached hum. “Yes, I can fix this up no problem. You’ll feel some tingling but it shouldn’t hurt, if you’re willing to let me help.” He waited until she was ready.

Rainbow Dash didn’t know this new pony but her friends were all smiling at her and Applejack was nodding at her that it was going to be okay, so she figured if they vouched for this dude he must be on the level. She just nodded at Magus once, waiting for the inevitable pain from getting her leg fixed. All doctors promised it wouldn’t hurt but that was so rarely true.

Magus smiled at her and activated his Rose with Bleeding Thorns Tattoo while his real body secretly moved up to the injured pegasus. Magus produced a convincing light show while his controller cast the healing energy into her body.

Warmth spread throughout Dash’s body causing her breath to catch as it flowed over her and enveloped her like…the best hug ever on a bright spring day she thought. Her hurt leg tingled a little then slowly she felt all the pain drain away as the bruise disappeared leaving her shuddering a little at the relief that flowed through her mind. The short shot of ecstasy that ended the spell triggered things in her body she hadn’t quite experienced before and then it vanished, like something on the tip of your tongue one moment and then gone the next.

“Oh my,” Rarity breathed quietly. “I’ve never seen such a complex spell weave before. That was…beautiful.”

Magus smiled at her then looked at Rainbow Dash. “How do you feel now?”

Slightly dazed, Dash stood up gingerly testing her leg before realizing it was as good as new. She looked at Magus with a wide-eyed stare for a moment before taking an excited pose in the air and what looked like clenching a hoof in front of her to Magus she exclaimed, “THAT. WAS. AWESOME!”

Applejack came up and placed a hoof on Magus’ shoulder with a low whistle. “Well partner, ah can see that bringin’ you ta Big Mac was the right idea aftr’all. Thanks fer catchin that bird-brain and patchin her up. She’s so dang reckless, it’s a wonder she ain’t in the hostpital ev’ry other day.”

“I’m just glad I happened to be here,” Magus said out loud, even though inside his worry increased that he’s been snagged in a Fate Weave after all. ‘Shit! Was I set up by one of the Powers!? Too many coincidences in a row, especially the fact they all seem to be friends…yeah, this can’t be random…’ Magus cursed his luck or in this case possible fate, but it didn’t change his goals; keep this world safe, keep this world happy, and don’t cause trouble. Magus hated being manipulated but he was hardly the most powerful thing in the Multiverse and sometimes, you just had to go with the flow.

Author's Note:

To be continued.

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