• Published 9th Apr 2015
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Bloodborne: Oligemia - Digital Media Disk



The terrible story of a sick pony, a deadly cure, a cruel city and an unending nightmare.

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Chapter 2: Silver Instruments

Octavia quickly trotted up the cobblestone path that led from the pedestrian gate to the keep. To her left, the road continued from the main gate up to the building as well, ending before two massive wooden doors that looked wide enough to admit four carriages side by side and another four stacked on top of those. Octavia felt the tall grass that had forced its way up between the cobblestones brush against her legs and underbelly. She hadn’t seen much of the keep grounds beyond the wall before it became too dark to make anything out, but what she had bespoke years of neglect from any kind of gardening whatsoever. Not something that would make for a good first impression from visitors and merchants, she supposed.

The path led her up to a small pedestrian entrance beside the larger doors, the wooden counterparts of the gates down at the wall. Beside the door was a large window with shutter pulled down over it, no doubt where a toll pony would sit in the day to admit travelers entering the city by hoof, but now there was nopony in sight. Squinting in the darkness, Octavia made out the black line of something hanging down beside the door. Grasping it with a hoof, she felt rough hemp. It’s a bell pull. Eager to get out of the foreboding darkness, Octavia gave the rope a sharp tug.

There was a loud *CRACK* from above, and Octavia barely had time to jump back with a startled yelp before something large and wooden smashed into the ground where she had been standing. The sound roused an unseen flock of crows in a nearby tree to flight, raucous caws obliterating whatever evening tranquility might have remained. Octavia simply stood where she was, eyes wide and heart pounding. She hadn’t even set hoof in Yharnaram yet, and she had already nearly died. She’d only tried to ring the bell, but instead had nearly crushed herself under what was now a pile of matchsticks and useless lumber.

The sound of hooves came from somewhere on the other side of the door, and a warm, yellow line of light grew to trace its outline. Octavia heard various clicks and clacks as bolts were drawn back, then the door opened, revealing an elderly stallion with a grey beard and mane, dressed in a dark brown, almost black coat. He held an oil lantern in one hoof, and wore a worried expression on his face, partially obscured by a cloth that had been tied over both his eyes, and pulled up under the tall, wide brimmed hat he wore.

“Are you alright?” he asked Octavia in a kind, grandfatherly voice.

“I… I think so” she relied, gulping in air to try and steady her breathing. The pony raised his lantern to survey the wreckage on his doorstep. In the lantern’s light Octavia saw long, broken beams of wood lying atop the rope she had pulled on. A hinged metal bracket was nailed to the end of one of the beams, covered in years of rust and twisted where it had been pulled free from the side of the keep. She recognized the object as boom for loading and unloading large objects from the carriages that came to the city. “I’m sorry” she blurted out. “It was dark, and nopony was around. There was a rope and I thought it was for the doorbell, but when I pulled it that just came crashing down. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I have some money. I’ll pay for repairs, and-”

“Oh it’s quite alright, my dear” he said, cutting off Octavia’s nervous babble in an easy manner as if she’d done nothing more than spill a pot of tea at lunch rather than damage a government building. “It’s my fault more than anypony else’s. Something like this was bound to happen eventually. These rotten things should have been taken down years ago—there’s no real use for them these days—but money for building maintenance and upkeep is hard to come by these days, hard to come by indeed. There always seems to be a need for it somewhere else. No, if anything you have done me a favor, and without killing yourself in the process I might add.” Even though the stallion’s eyes were obscured, it seemed to Octavia that he was looking her over and sizing her up. She suddenly had to suppress a shiver. “Though if you had, you would have made a fine specimen, I am sure.” The pony shook his head, as if aware of what he had just said. “I apologize. Visitors to Yharnaram are few and far between, and with so few duties to perform these days I keep myself busy with my own research. Sometimes the two become intermingled in my mind. My name is Sharpened Scalpel, and I am the toll master in charge of overseeing the entrance of all ponies and trade into this fair city, at your service.” He dipped his head into a respectful bow, and Octavia saw a pair of leathery black wings on his back. He’s a bat pony, Octavia realized. Then again, what else should I have expected to find in a city populated by them.

Bat ponies were one of the rarer breads of pony in Equestria, and were considered by most scholars to be an offshoot of the pegasi. They were rumored to be ancestors of pegasi that had dabbled in dark magic it the time before Celestia and Luna, back when the three pony races were still divided. Their attempt, it was said, was to discover a way for non-unicorns to harness the magical energy of the world around them so that they would not have to rely on the unicorns to raise the sun and moon, and they believed they could do so by pursuing avenues of research that had been deemed too dangerous or depraved by the unicorns. The end result was that the pegasi were tainted by dark magic so their very bodies changed, transforming them into creatures of the darkness with an affinity for mischief, cruelty, and blood. All of this was evidenced by the inexplicable ability of some bat ponies that seemed to be able to perform magic, though it was unlike anything a unicorn would be able to do. While she was not sure how much of this story could be taken for truth, Octavia shared the opinion most ponies had adopted after the return of Nightmare Moon and cleansing of Princess Luna. Bat ponies were ponies just like the three primary races, and while they were strange and somewhat reserved, they deserved the same respect and trust as everypony else. It seemed she had to keep reminding herself of that last part though.

“It is a pleasure to meet you” she said, extending a hoof to the bat pony. “My name is Octavia Melody, and I have come to Yharnaram… for medical reasons.” She wasn’t exactly sure how to explain why she was there to the toll master, or if she even wanted to. There was just something about him, something just under that bandaged visage that set her fur on end. Sharpened Scalpel set his lantern down, then reached out and briefly shook her hoof with his own. For one who looked so old he had a surprisingly strong grip.

“The pleasure is all mine” he said. The hoofshake ended as his hoof suddenly slid up hers to rest over one of the arterial veins on her foreleg. Startled, Octavia jerked her hoof away. “Ah, a strong pulse and a good heart” Scalpel said, nodding to himself. “Healthy.” He seemed to savor the word, and his bandaged gaze became lost in the starless night sky behind Octavia. “That’s good. That’s very good” he said in a soft voice as he looked back at her. “We can’t have any sick ponies coming into our city, you see. We’ve had far too much trouble with illnesses in the past, certainly.” He shook his head again. “Ah, but I am getting ahead of myself. We should see to your admittance before I begin discussing Yharnaram itself. Please, come in.” Scalpel backed away from the door in an awkward manner. A slight metallic creak matched his movements, and when he turned to lead Octavia into the keep, she saw that his rear legs were strapped into an antiquated hoof carriage with large wooden wheels, meant for ponies who could not use their rear legs.

Octavia stared in shock. Yharnaram was supposed to contain a cure to heal any illness or ailment, but if such was the case, then why was a pony, no, why was the pony in charge of admitting others to the city, the first pony any visitor such as herself would meet when entering Yharnaram a paraplegic—one with eye trouble too if those bandages were any indication? Scalpel continued to move slowly away, apparently unaware or uncaring that Octavia was not following him, and that he had left the door open and unlocked. She glanced at the strange pony, down at the dark shape of her hooflocker where it had fallen, then into the dark toward where the road away from Yharnaram lay, suddenly unsure. A nagging doubt began to burrow into her mind, chewing at her resolve. Is this so-called cure just a lie or a fairy tale? Should I really follow a strange pony into an empty building in the dead of night? Unbidden, a choir of voices and memories from the past few months rose to answer her.

“Unfortunately, this condition is currently untreatable with modern medicine. The average expectancy for your condition is-”

“Something like this is an utter tragedy, and you have all of our condolences, Miss Melody, but, with the nature of your illness in mind, we cannot continue to have you perform here. I know you will understand, and-”

“Look. I can see what this is doing to you—what I’m doing to you—and it’s tearing me up inside. I can’t stay anymore, for both our sakes. I’m sorry.”

“We should have seen the signs sooner. We should have done something sooner!”

“There isn’t a doctor in Equestria that can do what you’re asking.”

“You can’t be helped here.”

“This is untreatable.”

“…inoperable…”

“…no cure…”

“…hopeless…”

One memory stood out, clearer than all the others.

“Go to Yharnaram. The ponies there have what you seek.”

No! She would not give up. As long as there was a chance, as long as there was the faintest glimmer of hope that she could find a cure she would do whatever she had to, pay whatever cost was asked of her. If she had to leap through the gates of Tartarus itself she would if it meant she could be whole again.

Grasping a handle between her teeth, Octavia deftly swung the hooflocker back to its place on her back and quickly trotted after the bat pony toll master into the hollow darkness of the keep.

To say the inside of the toll master’s keep was large would have been an understatement. The room on the other side of the door was the very same one that the wooden gates on the outside led to, and was a loading dock meant for the mass transit of goods going to and from Yharnaram on carts coming up the mountain. In the dim light from the Scalpel’s lantern it seemed to be a decrepit wooden cavern more than anything. Rafters at least twelve ponies high crept in and of the shadows above, their forms adorned with ropes and pulleys like massive cobwebs. Tall support beams rose up from the ground to meet it, creating a barren forest of darkness and lifeless wood around the two ponies. Octavia followed Scalpel down a raised platform that made up the right side of the loading bay, trying to stay close but keep her distance from him at the same time.

“This city used to be a beacon of northern trade and commerce.” Though his voice was soft, the sudden noise from the toll master in the dark room made Octavia jump. “At one point, back when the mines still ran, this room was filled day and night with traders coming from both north and south, all seeking to make fortunes, all seeking the precious metals that lie under our mountain, and some”, he turned his head to give Octavia what might have been a pleasant smile, but which only made her shudder, “to find a cure to the diverse multitude of rare and exotic diseases that plague ponykind.” Again, the toll master’s soft tone turned to one of unnerving bliss. “Oh the progress we made in those days. So many test subjects. So many theorists and physicians, all coming here in the hopes of studying and replicating our cure, but it can’t be replicated, oh no my dear. You can only find it here in Yharnaram.” Sharpened Scalpel broke off in a fit of coughing as if his own body were mocking his assertion of a cure.

“So what happened?” Octavia asked, partially because she did not wish to be rude by showing no interest in what the bat pony was saying, and partially because now that there was sound in the massive room, she clung to it like the tedious flame bobbing in the lantern in front of her. “From what I know, the bat ponies have only been in Yharnaram for half a century. If the city was as great a trading hub as you say it was, then why have most ponies forgotten about that aspect of it? I certainly never heard of Yharnaram being known for trade, or for mines for that matter, before I came here.”

“Fame and money are fickle mistresses, Miss Melody” Scalpel said dryly. “The merit of a pony, the merit of a city, both are valued only in how many bits they have in their pockets and in their coffers. When the plague began, trade dried up like a corpse left out under the blasting sun, and soon there were not enough of our kind left to work the mines, not that gold and silver can do much to save a pony from death, but we survived, thanks to our extensive understanding of medicine, and our cure.” The bat pony’s voice swelled with pride. “We were here long before you Equestrians finally took note of us and our mountains filled with precious metals, and we will be here long after Equestria itself falls to dust one day.” The two ponies arrived at a small door set into the side of the room. On it was a brass plate with the word “Toll Master” stenciled on it in flowing letters. “Since we have so few visitors these days I must handle all of them myself in my personal office.” Sharpened Scalpel pushed the door open and motioned for Octavia to enter.

She timidly stepped through the doorway ahead of him, and into a large room that looked like a cross between a three-way cross between a living room, bureaucrat’s office, and an operating theater. At the end of the room across from her was a large oak desk, covered in books, stacks of loose leaf paper and other assorted odds and ends, the clutter spilling over the desktop and onto the floor around it in some places. A large, square window set far above the desks, looking out on the black sky like an empty eye socket. One wall was completely covered by shelves that reached all the way up to the ceiling, which was almost as high as it was out in the loading bay. They were filled with jars, bottles and flasks of all shapes and sizes that contained a multitude of dark, murky objects. Octavia thought she recognized a few shapes that she had once seen in a biology text book—a pony biology textbook. She quickly looked away. In front of the wall sat an operating table with multiple leather restraints intended to hold a pony in place and bolted to the wood floor. Beside it were metal trays filled with a vast array of operating instruments, cleaned to perfection and flashing dangerous silver where the light caught them. Octavia had no doubt that if any one of them were to so much as touch her, its razor edge would slice through flesh, muscle and sinew down to the bone itself with no effort at all. She no longer wondered why the toll master of Yharnaram, a city official, was a pony name Sharpened Scalpel. I just wish I didn’t have to come here to find that out. Oh Celestia, is he going to operate on me!?!

“Is something the matter, Miss Melody?” Octavia jumped so hard that her hooflocker fell off her back, landing beside her with a thump.

“No, no, Mr. Scalpel. I’m quite fine, thank you” she said, working to keep the fear out of her voice, working to keep that fear from turning into outright panic, from bolting out the door and back down the mountain road, starless night or not. How in Equestria did I end up in a place like this?

The bat pony had unstrapped his rear legs from his hoof carriage, and had moved to sit in a large metal wheelchair that had been left by the door, intended for ponies who could not use their legs yet wished to be able to sit while remaining mobile. His lantern now hung from a poll on the side of the chair, but did not do a good job of illuminating the large chamber, not anywhere near a good job in Octavia’s opinion. Long shadows seemed to creep out from Sharpened Scalpel in every direction, a spider at home in the center of his web, and she was the fly.

Reaching down with his forehooves, the toll master rolled himself over to the wall opposite the shelves. A large stone hearth was inlaid into the wall, and before it sat a short table—also covered papers and various odds and ends—a wide couch and two high backed chairs. Sharpened Scalpel picked a small box up off the edge of the table and withdrew a match from it. He struck it across the side of the box, and a tiny flame hissed to life in his hoof. Tossing it into the fireplace produced a loud whoosh as the dry autumn logs with it blazed to life, light and warmth born with it.

“Miss Melody” he said calmly, turning back to face her. “In a city such as ours, it is the duty of the toll master to be a skilled medicinal practitioner as well as an administrator so that he might be of better aid to all the ponies who come here, whatever their reason. It is my duty to see to it that they… that you are administered the best medical treatment possible, if that is why you have come.” Scalpel’s voice carried a hopeful tone. “My purpose is the same as that of any doctor, to heal the sick, to prevent the spread of disease and to alleviate suffering.” Though his gaze was obscured by bandages, Octavia was sure he was looking directly into her eyes. “You have nothing to fear here” the toll master said emphatically, and motioned toward the one of the chairs in front of the fireplace.

Octavia balked, then finally gave in and moved to sit in the offered chair. She sat back gingerly, as if it were a pin cushion she had alighted on instead of a piece of furniture, but quickly relaxed as she found the chair to be comfortable and devoid of any surprises. Scalpel smiled widely at her from under his large hat, an expression that still did nothing to set her at ease, though Octavia could see that he was trying. The toll master rolled to the other side of the table and reached down to begin shifting through a stack of papers.

“Very good, Miss Melody. Now,” he pulled a folded sheet of parchment from the pile and set it on his lap, “to discuss your reason for visiting Yharnaram. Let’s start with where you’re from, your purpose in visiting our city, and how long you intend to stay.”

Ok Octavia thought to herself. It’s just a simple interview, that’s all. I’ve done plenty of these before. There’s nothing to worry about.

“I came-” Octavia had to stop and take a breath when her voice quavered. “I came to Yharnaram from Canterlot because I heard that this city has a cure for rare diseases and afflictions, because I need that cure for myself, and I don’t know how long I’ll be staying. As long as it takes to find out whether the cure works or not, I suppose.”

“Ah” Sharpened Scalpel said softly, and his smile seemed to flash dangerously, so fast that it was gone before Octavia was even sure it had been there in the first place. “And what exactly is ailing you, my dear, to bring you so far from your home?”

Octavia swallowed nervously. “False Unicorn’s Disorder.” Scalpel did not reply at first. The bat pony merely sat, studying her intently. Slowly, his black wings spread out behind him and began to beat the air, providing just enough lift to barely raise him out of his seat. Octavia felt her head began to spin, and lump of nausea formed in her stomach. She bent forward to cradle her head in both of her hooves.

“Oh, yes…” the toll master said, settling back down into his wheelchair and giving a dry chuckle. “Cornucopia Cerebrum, in its mid stage no less. You are a rare patient, Miss Melody, a rare patient indeed. Perhaps even the first ever to come to our city with such a disease.”

“All I want to know,” Octavia took a couple of deep breaths as the pain resided, “is if Yharnaram can cure me.” Octavia fidgeted in her seat. “Every doctor I’ve seen in Equestria has told me that this is incurable. That… that it will eventually drive me mad or kill me, and there’s nothing they can do to stop it.” Scalpel nodded serenely as if he’d known exactly what she was going to say.

“Well, you’ve come to the right place” the toll master said. Yharnaram is the home of blood ministration. You need only unravel its mystery. But, where’s an outsider like yourself to begin?” He began to roll himself around the table toward Octavia, his voice little more than a confidential whisper “Easy, with a bit of Yharnaram blood of your own.” The toll master took the parchment from his lap and passed it to Octavia. “But first, you’ll need a contract.” Nervously she unfolded it, gaze flickering from the pony uncomfortably close to her to the neat writing it contained. Most of it was legal writing that granted her entrance into the city to conduct business of a medical nature, and down near the bottom was an area that asked for a detailed physical description of the bearer of the document—for identification purposes—some short background information, and their signature. Scalpel reached over to the table and grabbed an inkwell and quill from atop another stack of papers, and offered it to Octavia, who skimmed, filled out and signed the document as fast as she could, not wanting to let her eyes off the toll master for any longer than she had to. Once she finished, the toll master took and refolded it without a word, and grabbed an unlit candle from off the table. Rolling over to the fireplace, he held the candle close to the flames until the end began to melt, then held it over the contract. Thick drops of wax made a red puddle on the parchment. From inside his cloak he produced a seal and stamped the wax with what Octavia supposed was the seal of Yharnaram, then slipped both the seal and the contract into his coat. “Good. All signed and sealed. Now, let’s begin the transfusion.” The toll master began to roll toward the other side of the room where the operating table lay.

“Excuse me?” Octavia said hesitantly. “Transfusion? My doctor’s all told me that this was a neurological disorder, that is, I was never recommended to a hematologist for it.” Sharpened Scalpel stopped heading toward the far wall and turned to give her a sidelong glance, the sides of his mouth pressed into a grim line.

“That is why your doctors, why most doctors fail” he said disdainfully. “Your blood, all blood, is the foundation for who and what you are.” He began to move back toward her. “It gives you life, makes you grow, shapes your body, carries energy to every cell in it. We are our blood, Miss Melody, and here in Yharnaram we have found that every disease can be addressed by cleansing the blood, by purifying it with stronger blood, by strengthening it with the blood of ancient Yharnaram.” He stopped before her, his bandaged face looming half in shadow, half in the light from the fire.

“The blood of ancient Yharnaram?” Octavia asked, still not understanding.

“Yharnaram ram’s blood” Scalpel replied, sitting back a bit. He spoke patiently, almost as one would when explaining lightning on a stormy night to a scared foal. “You have the blood of a unicorn, and the blood of an earthpony, each inseparable yet incompatible with one another. Your body is attempting to find a physical balance, to acquiesce to two opposing forces at the same time, yet it is failing, and is tearing you apart in the process. The blood of Yharnaram is old, but it is still strong. It will create a balance between the earthpony and the sliver of unicorn in you, just as the three points of a triangle balance one another to create a stable base.”

“I’m… I’m not sure” Octavia said, trying to keep her gaze firmly on the bat pony. She could feel the presence of the door to her right. It seemed a long ways away at the moment. This was not what she had expected at all. But what else is there? she thought to herself. I’ve come all this way, and it’s like that pony said back on the way here. Nopony comes to Yharnaram unless they need a cure to some illness. But still, blood? Octavia was not afraid that she would be sold the proverbial bottle of snake oil—this didn’t feel like that kind of place, and no money had been asked for up front—but rather the adder itself by the tail. “You also said something about a mystery. How does that fit in to curing me?”

“Ah, well that part is… difficult to explain.” Scalpel spoke with infinite patience. “You will understand it better once you’ve received the transfusion. Suffice it to say the process you are about to undergo is one that will affect your mind as well as your body. As I said before, blood makes us both who we are as well as what we are. Our city is a place to heal the sick by guiding them back to an understanding of who they are on a fundamental level, and when you come to know the secrets at its heart, you will have become whole in both mind and body once more.” The toll master’s words didn’t make any sense on the surface, but he spoke with such conviction that Octavia found herself wanting to believe him, and considering she had exhausted every other option…

“Alright, I’ll agree to the transfusion” she said, rising from her chair.

“Very good. This way, please.” Sharpened Scalpel gestured toward the other side of the room and the dreaded operating table. Octavia followed him over to it, thankful he could not see her legs shaking as she walked.

“Please, lie down” he said, indicating the table, then turned to one of the shelves. Trembling and wondering how in Equestria it had come to this, Octavia hoisted herself onto one end of the table, and eased herself back. She stared up at the high ceiling and swallowed, trying to work moisture back into her suddenly dry mouth, listening to the clink of glass coming from Scalpel’s direction. If I see so much as a butter knife I’m going to buck him right in the face and run for it, she thought. The toll master appeared at her side a minute later, a needle and large syringe filled with crimson liquid held in one hoof. He set it down on a tray beside him, and reached for Octavia to fasten the leather restraints across her body.

“Some ponies react rather violently to the transfusion at first” he said when she nearly fell off the table in alarm. “The restraints are for both our safety, I assure you.” He tried to give her another smile, and she looked away, blinking to fight back panic and tears. This whole night was becoming almost more than she could handle. But what other choice do I have? Octavia simply flopped back down on the table, and allowed Sharpened Scalpel to tie her down. There were seven restraints in all: one over the stomach, the chest, the forehead and one for each leg. Any hope of escape if the toll master had any other plans for Octavia vanished as he pulled the last strap tight across her middle.

“This next part can be a bit unpleasant” the toll master said. Octavia could not turn her head, but she heard the sound of him gathering something from the instrument tray beside him. “Oh but don’t you worry, Miss Melody. Whatever happens… you may think it all a mere bad dream.”

There was a flash of movement in the corner of Octavia’s vision, and she cried out in pain and surprise as she felt the needle pierce her carotid artery. She writhed on the table, struggling to break free, but was held firmly in place by the restraints across her. Fire seemed to spread through her blood from the injection point, a cord of burning agony that quickly became a web of molten lava beneath her skin. It felt as if her bones themselves were aflame. Her heart became a burning ember, its every beat causing indescribable anguish, and her head felt as if somepony had just driven a spike of white hot steel through its center. Octavia screamed, cried and pleaded for Sharpened Scalpel to make it stop, for him to just kill her and make it stop, but there was no answer. Finally, mercifully, her vision blurred and sound and consciousness began to slip away, the pain going with it.

After what seemed like only a few seconds, she came back to her senses. Octavia was not sure if she was awake or not. She did not feel wholly… present, as if she lacked corporeality. Darkness receded from the corners of her sight, and she could see the ceiling again, up above her. She still could not move though. The operating restraints were still in place, even if she could not feel them yet. Is that it? Is the treatment done? Her thoughts were cut off by the gentle sound of sloshing liquid somewhere off to her side.

“Hello?” she said, struggling to turn her head beneath its restraint. “Is somepony there?”

Nothing answered at first. Then, Octavia heard the wind. It made a low, hollow moaning as it trickled through the rafters, rustling the chandeliers and stirring up the dust. The grey particles swirled above Octavia in a lazy circle that began to turn faster and faster, the wind’s dull groaning slowly growing in pitch and volume to siren’s howl. Then there was light. There was no source that Octavia could see, tied down and staring up as she was, but a pool of orange light bloomed on the ceiling, and then, slowly, orange flames begin to peek between the boards in the ceiling, growing downward like swaying stalactites of light. As soon as the first ember touched the swirling dust cloud over Octavia, it exploded into a ring of fire with a roar. Octavia squeezed her eyes shut. The sudden intensity of the fire hurt her eyes, and when she opened them a minute later, the entire ceiling was a cyclone of flames, the eye of the maelstrom swirling directly above her. Like water drawn down the drain, it began to elongate toward her into a funnel of fiery death. Even though she still could feel nothing of the tremendous heat, Octavia screamed in alarm as it reached for her, its center turning to a white hot point set to pierce her very heart and incinerate her soul. Suddenly, a tremor seemed to run through the entire room, run through her body itself, and the flames stopped moving just above her, then vanished into darkness.

Octavia laid there a moment longer, unsure of what had just happened, when another shudder shook the world around her. Glasses clinked as they vibrated in their cases, and books and papers rustled like tree leaves caught in the gentle breeze that came just before the breaking of a storm. Is this an earthquake? The rafters began to groan above Octavia like the hull of a ship caught in a tempest, and finally gave way with ear-splitting snaps and cracks. She winced as she saw them come apart, but instead of falling down to crush her, the fragmented timber rose up and away into a vast chasm of stars. The room began to shake harder and harder, and Octavia saw books, papers, bottles and knives all began to fly past her, twirling gracefully through the air like dandelion seeds caught in a gentle spring breeze until they ascended beyond where the ceiling had been to vanish in an instant, sucked up—or is it down now?—with tremendous force. As if from somewhere far off, Octavia felt the biting pain of leather cutting into her flesh as she began to be pulled against her restraints, up and away from the floor.

“Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no. Oh Celestia please no” she whimpered as her mane trailed out before her, drawn toward the starlight expanse. The pain of the restraints pulling against her, or rather she against them, became more and more pronounced and more and more unbearable until there was a loud *SNAP* like a firecracker, followed by six more in rapid succession. “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Octavia screamed as she shot out of the room and plunged face first into the heavens.

Falling end over end she caught glimpses of massive steal gears turning slowly, immense pistons pushing, brass cogs whirring and springs winding and unwinding, all inside what was some great, dark machine, impossibly large and filled with a million pinpricks of light.

For a single instant she saw a streak of midnight blue amongst the darkened steel and bronze; a mare, regal and tall with sapphire eyes and a long mane that flowed gently, reflecting the true night sky. Her startled gaze met Octavia’s for a moment, and then she was gone, whisked out of sight as Octavia continued to drop.

Helpless, she plummeted downward faster and faster. Then, in an instant, there was a stone floor below her, and before she could even realize it was there, Octavia’s body and consciousness were shattered against its unforgiving surface, hurling her back into darkness.