• Published 27th May 2015
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Foal Necromancer: Soul's Rebirth - Bold Promise

Madness. Bitterness. Cold, unwavering cruelty. Could love and acceptance truly wipe these stains away, or will they only offer the chance for the creation of a new foe, far worse than any Equestria had ever seen before?

  • ...

Long ago...

I wanted to convince him that he no longer needed his necromancy. Not because I was afraid that he’d find out what we’ve done, or because of my own personal opinion on the matter. There was actually a far more pressing concern that I had. Namely, the nature of pony magic.

Every pony has an affinity that affects them in far more ways than one might expect. It is a part of what they are. Similarly, alicorns have an affinity as well, if more acute than all the other kinds of ponies. Celestia doesn’t just get empowered by the sun, she is the sun... to a certain extent. She is the day the same way a bird is its singing, or the leaf is the tree it belongs to. Same way, I am far more than the night, the moon and the stars. I am me as well. I am a pony. I am fallible and flawed. I have my own emotions which come into conflict with those of the night itself. Where the sun only wishes to bring warmth and light, to see the world under it grow, the moon desires to be loved in its own right; To stand vigil and to inspire.

Necromancy is not an affinity that anyone should have. Or at least, that was what I believed. Now, I was not so certain. He surprised me once before, showing me there was more to himself. Then he surprised me again, showing me there was more to his craft. Perhaps if anyone could handle the darker nature of necromancy, it was him?

Regardless, before he could learn to be an alicorn, he needed to learn to be a pony. And before he could do that, he needed to put his demons to rest. Until then, he couldn’t be allowed to exercise any of his darker abilities, lest he’d establish a link to anything less than what I saw in him. There certainly were a number of things on the agenda. Perhaps it would've been best to focus on the moment at hoof. I’ve yet to convince him that he was safe. Answering his questions had been delayed quite enough, I imagined.

”It’s not easy to explain, you should know. It’s actually both complicated, as well as rather... personal.”

”But you do have an answer to give.” he retorted.

”A long-winded one, yes.”

He seemed to consider my words carefully. I lay in bed across from him, studying him intently, imagining that if I looked hard enough I might be able to decipher the information churning inside his head. I took this chance to propose an idea. ”How about we play a game? This way you get to know me better through it and I get time to mull my answer over more carefully.”

He stared at me impassively. You would think that someone without eyes wouldn’t be able to pull off a stare. You’d be wrong.

”Fine.” he finally answered, ”But I’m playing black.”

”...Are you sure you don’t want to go first?”

”Yes, I’m certain.” he stated with finality.

I forced down a sigh in disappointment. I like playing black as well. Oh well. Suppose I can’t be too disappointed. We’re still playing my second favorite game, I suppose switching my color from time to time can’t hurt.

Yes, princesses play games. We know how to have fun, even if the actual word wasn’t used a thousand years ago. We only called it ”entertainment”, or ”diversions”, or ”recreation”. Chess being only one in a wide array of ”fun” activities I’d have time for. Besides reading and writing poetry, there was always drawing, writing music, as well as organizing festivities...

Well, I used to organize festivities. Now, not so much. I’m trying to ease in for now.

Halfway through setting up, I realized something. ”How are you going to see the pieces?”

”Well,” the bodily impaired human offered, ”you could try guiding me on how to cast a basic sight spell again.”

”I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way. I could cast a visual link, however.”

”...Fair enough.”

I haven’t cast the spell in more than a millennia, but recalling the ley commands was simple enough regardless. I encountered some slight resistance, which quickly gave way just like when I cast the language link.

”So, is that what I look like?" the colt asked with a critical look on his face, shifting his head and hooves around like one would inspect themselves in the mirror.

”You sound disappointed.” I pointed out.

”Not really. I might be stuck in a defenseless child’s body, but I’m actually relieved. You’re not human, but you’re certainly not that disturbing aesthetically. Far from it.”

I finished placing the pieces, then jested, ”I am pleased to hear that you’re not horrified by your new, alien appearance.” I made my first move on the board.

”Considering the two worlds I went through before I found yours, I’d say I came out lucky. However...” His words cut off as he slowly, shakily, reached out with his hoof. He seemed to be having trouble getting his foreleg to go the right way. ”Not only am I still fine tuning my new range of motion, which isn’t any easier when you only have an inverted mirror image to guide you, but I have no idea how to pick anything up with these things. How did you even move that knight, anyway?”

I reached out and placed a fetlock over his, laying it back down. He seemed surprised by the gesture. ”Let’s leave the workings of unconventional magic(*) for later. Just tell me what move you want to make.”

”That felt... surprisingly gentler than one might expect a hoof to feel.” he offered, as he dragged his own hoof over to the back of his head and scratched awkwardly. ”I don’t even know how I’m doing this, either.”

”Trust me, it would require at least an hour of explaining. Let’s just focus on the game for now.”

He made his move, albeit a poor one at first glance. I briefly considered overlooking... but didn’t. I was curious at his choice of moves, and was repaid immediately for it.

Curiosity caught the cat. That saying was more than fitting for what happened next. Of course, there was an entire game to play before anything would be decided. I managed to cut my losses and keep going, although at the expense of a knight, a pawn and both bishops. He was certain to take as many spoils as he could carry. Afterwards, he was quick to coil back in like a snake.

He had an extremely centralized defense, preferring to react over taking the offensive himself. However, despite his heavily control-oriented strategy, he made sure to keep things interesting with plenty of lures that, should I follow, would eventually lead to his victory in less than half a dozen moves. It wasn’t over, however. No defense is absolute. All I needed to do was find the right place to poke for the dam to break...

He didn’t speak much. Quite the change of pace, actually. I supposed he wanted to let me figure out my answer. I wasn’t going to come up with a satisfactory speech any time soon, however. So I considered we might as well sustain conversation.

”You do realize, you won’t be able to win unless you take the initiative.”

”I’m good.”

”You’re... good?” I stuttered, not understanding what he meant. ”Well, I was still trying to place you, but I wouldn’t go as far as ranking you as either completely good or evil. I...”

”Fool to B4. It’s a figure of speech. It means I’m okay without taking up on your offer. But still, go on. I am actually interested in whatever petty model of right and wrong you chose to follow.”

I sighed. I had no idea what he was on about this time, but I didn’t feel like fighting over philosophy. Perhaps another time.

”For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re evil. Just... very lost in a dark place.”

”That so?” he asked, a cocky smirk on his face. ”What are you going to do? Try to guide me out of the dark?”

”Yes, actually.”

His smile faltered gradually, the rest of him slowly falling into a thoughtful expression.

The game slowed down, starting to resemble a fight of attrition instead. He eventually spoke again, more sedate this time.

”You’re not brilliant at thinking ahead. You can see obvious traps, but only as far as five moves ahead. You seem to prefer finding creative, if risky maneuvers instead of strategizing. That’s the only reason why you lasted this long. You will neither fully commit, nor fully disengage, but you always react in the least predictable manner.”

I didn’t take offense to his criticism. It was true, my gameplay thus far was less than impressive. I decided I’d rather confront him more sportsmarely. ”It’s a trick I learned from an old friend. The only way to beat a reactive, orderly type as yourself is to surprise them. A little chaos can go a long way. Check.”

One moment he looked as though he wanted eyes to widen, the next he was laughing heartily. As he calmed down, he spoke, casually, ”I suppose you’re right. I don’t quite like surprises much either. They’re the only way I ever get myself killed. Move the knight in the way, if you please.”

”...Huh.” was all I managed out awkwardly. ”So... is that why you’re so control-oriented?”

”The only reason I survived for the first few years before I perfected my Reanimation spell was because I made it a point to keep one step ahead of my enemies. It’s like you said, you can’t win if you don’t take the initiative. Fortune favors the bold, but there’s far more to success than initiative. It’s knowing when to strike and when it’s safer to fall back. When to lay a trap and when to lay in wait, studying your enemies for weaknesses. When to pick out the weaker links, when to go all in, and most importantly...” He lowered his head in focus, his horn glowing. I was surprised when he actually managed to move one of his pieces. I supposed he studied me doing it enough to figure out the gist of it himself. ”...when to set to control what the enemy does and does not notice. Check mate.”

Huh. I had all but forgotten about his queen. It wasn’t because of his talking, it was simply hard to keep note of everything that was happening in the game. He hadn’t used the piece for a while, leaving it to fade into the background.

”Nice example.” I offered, genuinely impressed despite knowing full well that he just demonstrated one of his methods of taking down any number of enemies before now. ”And well done with your first levitation spell.”

”It was actually surprisingly easier than it was before I changed shape. Normally, I could barely levitate anything heavier than a set of keys, on a good day.”

”Wait. You can cross necromancy with multiple other fields, but-”

”-But I’m no good in most of those fields.” he finished for me. ”It actually took me a fair amount of toils to figure out my divination spells. The only reason why I could sense spirits at all was because of how heavily on the necromantic side it really was.”

”You mean you couldn’t use any magic?”

”When using any of the schools of magic, one needs to be in the right states of mind and emotion. Once you picked out one school, you would need to unlearn it before you could practice any other type of magic. I never had time for such an endeavor. Whenever I did try to use other schools anyway, I would receive mixed results. My pyromancy often backfired, for one thing. Always had trouble maintaining a stable flame.”

”You’re surprisingly forthcoming with your capabilities. If I didn’t know better I would’ve thought you were starting to trust me.” I spoke casually, and was satisfied to receive a sufficiently panicked reaction from him.

”I’m only sustaining conversation!” he snapped back quickly. ”There isn’t even any point in keeping these things secret anyway. I can’t use magic, so I don’t have any reason to dodge your questions. After all, it would seem that I’m not going to be able to use any of them any time soon, and will have to re-learn everything all over again anyway. Perhaps I could even bother with a few pointers...”

”Perhaps if you’re good.” I jested.

He raised an eyebrow in confusion before continuing, ”Regarding my combat strategies, they are all well and good to hear, but you need to learn what they entail on your own in order to truly understand them."

He sighed, ”In the end, I was just happy to chat. I haven’t had a decent conversation partner in a few years. At least not anyone living, anyway...”

’I really did not need to hear that last part. I suppose he only had his mindless, skeleton minions to talk to for years on end? Really?... He’s probably just forgetting to specify something. He certainly doesn’t seem THAT insane.’

I regathered myself. ”...You’re surprisingly sane for someone who went through such a long time without social interaction.”

”Am I? My mistake, I’ll try harder.”

Okay, that time was actually rather funny.

”Do you have an answer for me yet?” he asked me.

I stared at the pieces on the table for a bit, at the fallen pawns and surrounded king. I finally spoke as I started putting them away. ”I do. But before I get to it, there is a matter which I wish you to consider. I imagine you’ve asked yourself this for your entire life, but, what do you believe was the reason for why those people persecuted you?”

He put a surprising amount of thought into my question. He cocked his head to the side, and after a few seconds, asked, ”Do you want the long-winded answer, or the overly simplified answer?”

”Take as long as you want.” I answered, closing the chess table and placing it in another bed.

”I’d rather not take at all...” he sighed. ”I usually prefer not thinking about it, but you’re right. I did give it a lot of thought regardless.

"At first, I just came up with an overly narrow-minded answer. Simply, they did it because of interest. Because they were given an attractive enough offer, to kill for money they desired. Because they cared about coin, or their own livelyhood over petty morals. After all, why be nice when being a selfish bastard is so much more rewarding? At first, I thought that I was a magnet for the worst of the worst. But then, I learned something after I had more opportunities to look around and think. Apparently, I brought out the worst of others, and then I started to ask questions. To see what was going on inside their heads.”

”You wanted to understand why they hated you?”

”I did, but only for the sole purpose of figuring out how to use that hatred to my advantage. After all, a clouded mind is easier to anticipate and control.”

‘Is he serious? His peers hated him, and of all things, that's why he wanted to know why?’

I sighed. “…What did you find out?”

“That they feared the dark arts, and their users. Not just because those arts are dangerous and unknown to them, no. It went further than that. They were educated that way, to consider Necromancy and the like as something which only the most vile, demented, depraved and cowardly would study. To them, it was unholy. It was a stigma. An anathema. Simply put, they believed in evil, and were educated that my kind was it.”

He regarded me oddly. He appeared to want to continue his tirade, but stopped. Now he only looked expectant. “Was my answer enough?” he asked me.

It would suffice. He seemed anxious, and I could only guess what he was staring at me expectantly for.

“I suppose I delayed it enough. I just didn’t think I could give myself justice unless I made certain you had the proper understanding. So far, however, I’m still uncertain.”

He escaped an adorable little growl upon hearing that. I couldn’t help but stifle a chuckle.

”Alright alright. How about this. I will tell you a tale, one which I believe will help you understand my reasons better.”

”...Does anyone die in your story?” was his unsavory remark.

I gave him a wry look, although he probably didn’t see it. ”Well, for one thing, the entire planet was at risk of being plunged into eternal darkness, eventually causing vegetation to die and forcing the remaining living creatures to either die or turn into monsters. Does that suffice?”

”...So,” he hummed, tapping his chin, ”there was the risk of global death involved? Sounds interesting enough. I might even keep quiet through most of it.”

Cheeky till the end. I made myself comfortable beside him. If he minded, he didn’t say anything, or give anything away.

I imagine the commonly known version of the story had a few details cut out, for the sake of keeping past sins buried. I didn’t feel my guest needed coddling.

I lay on my side, looking out the window into my moonlit night, recalling the events of a thousand years ago. Admiring my work always helped put me at ease. I would need it.

”Long ago, in the kingdom known as Equestria, there were two regal sisters who ruled peacefully and lovingly, and watched over their subjects, as well as over the balance of the world around them.

”The older sister would rule during the day, rising the sun at dawn, nurturing their hearts and easing their fears. She would maintain order, and enjoy watching her ponies grow and prosper.

”The second, instead, preferred to follow her calling and not only watch over her ponies during the night both in the physical realm, but also in their sleep, as there are many malefic beings who would try to attack them during their most vulnerable. But she would also rise the moon and bring out the stars, making sure they all appeared where they would feel most admired.

”She would create many spectacles during the night. There would be festivals for star showers, auroras, as well as for art and poetry. And her ponies would enjoy them, which would make the Princess’s heart swell.”

I let myself dwell on the memories. Oh, how wonderful those events were... while they lasted.

”Unfortunately, as fate would have it, nothing good ever lasts forever. To live is to change, and that is what was demanded of the two sisters.”

My charge was silent, but he was paying attention. I sighed as I tried to piece together a decent enough explanation. Tonight’s happenings offered quite the unsavory insight. Even after so long, it was still incredible how very... wrong things had gone.

”The two sisters were not gods. They were alicorns. They were paragons of their race. They were immensely powerful in comparison to the average pony, and they never aged. However, they were still quite mortal. They were not all-knowing, they still made mistakes. They would still present cravings and wants, they were still flawed.

”However, the ponies would presume otherwise.

”It was an honest mistake to make. However, no matter how many times their rulers corrected them, the ponies would always come back to the same assumption. It was almost as if they weren’t hearing them.

”Eventually, the sisters realized that it wasn’t their ponies’ fault. It wasn’t that their assumptions were based on ill-found rumor, but that they simply needed the knowledge that they had the protection and love of unfaulting gods to prosper. They needed that meaning in their lives.

”So, the two sisters allowed their subjects to believe what they needed to believe. Not because the sisters ever wanted to be identified in such a way. Far from it. They wanted to be loved as equals, not put on pedestals and hidden behind the image of something which they were not. However, it wasn’t something their little ponies could help. They didn’t want gods, they needed them.”

My charge finally got off his haunches and laid more comfortably as well. I took it as a good sign.

”After a century, the sisters stopped bothering to correct their subjects. They told themselves that it was a worthwhile sacrifice, to be disconnected in such a way. And for a while, it seemed that way. For what followed was the greatest Golden Age that ponykind had ever experienced. They thrived... but they changed.

”Gradually, their views upon their leaders warped. For whatever reason, they started preaching about their diarchs being on opposite sides of some kind of rivalry. Where they were actually in the midst of an unseen war, where the day and night conflicted for absolute dominion. Light versus dark. Good against evil... Apparently they decided to all but ignore about the beauty of the night, and consider it as nothing more than just some primordial foe responsible for everything wrong with the world.”

He stood still, listening intently. I had almost mistaken him for asleep, from how silent he was.

”Gone were the celebrations and festivals. The artists, poets and bards which would once be abound throughout the kingdom, were now so painfully few. No longer would they look upon the stars and feel wonder and grandeur. They had the day, and a god sheltering them from all that they did not understand. They would only know fear as they looked into the night sky, fear and hatred at the vastness of the world beyond them. Of the unknowable.

”They wanted us to be their gods, and then they wanted to part us. One of us to be their savior to put their hopes on, the other to be their source of grief to blame for their woes. They wanted things to be simple for them. Convenient... and to damn anything that was in their way.”

”They didn’t need someone to hate, they wanted one.”

There was a tone of desperation hidden in his voice. I couldn’t bear to correct him even if I disagreed. I didn’t know what to believe myself, but I did know one thing. I didn’t want him to hold onto this hatred.

I recalled what I did tonight. What I thought, and what I might’ve done to my charge if Celestia wasn’t there.

”People do things that they can’t help. They’re flawed. It’s not something which anyone can do anything about, neither is it something which we should ever accept. Nor does it do anyone any good to dwell on it.”

”Nor are such things within range of forgiveness for the sane.”

”You drowned.” I gave his shoulder a slight nuzzle. ”But now you’re on dry land. Please, you need to try.”

He pushed me away. ”Just finish your story.” he sounded out tiredly. I couldn’t even work up a sigh.

I lay my head on my forehooves, calming myself as I thought about what happened afterwards. I didn’t even bother trying to pretend like it was something that didn’t happen to me.

”Things never stopped getting worse. My sister would try to convince them of their mistakes, but her ponies would just disregard her, believing I was affecting her mind somehow. Whatever anyone said, they would just use it all as fuel for their hatred of me. And eventually... they crossed the line.

”I could live without their love. I could hold my own against the rage of the unloved night, because I still loved my subjects. Because I loved my sister, and I could never betray her.

”But she couldn’t lead on her own. A period of political tension eventually arrived after a certain centaur attacked our kingdom. Fearing a second attack, she left me to stand vigil as she departed for a political meeting.

”During the leave, the entire kingdom turned on me. They wanted to poison me, but when they found I was resisting the toxins, the entire castle’s guards and a good number of armed civilians tried to kill me.”

His ears perked up, only a little.

”I could hold my ground for a while. I eventually needed to rely on more and more of my attunement to the night. Eventually, however, I just... couldn’t take it any more.

”The night came early that day. The hatred on my subjects’ faces soon melded into fear as they realized what they’d done. Moments later, Celestia arrived. She flew back home all the way from across the world, terror and tears across her face. If she arrived any later...”

Had she arrived a moment later, I would’ve killed every single one of them.

”What happened next?” my charge insisted.

”What happened next? Their religious dogma came true. Sister turned on sister, night lay siege on day. The Nightmare came true, and the Day defeated the Night.

”I forced my own sister to strike me down. To imprison me, to bind me to my Moon. I abandoned her...”

I didn’t know what my guest was thinking. Did he have any idea what it was like? Was he even capable of sympathy? He only remained silent.
Perhaps he just didn’t trust my tale to be true. Perhaps he felt too skeptical to offer any sympathy. Perhaps after what he’d done, he could no longer feel sympathy either way.

I sighed and continued.

”The entire kingdom cheered, celebrated my fall as I watched from within my prison. This was what they were waiting for. Their Goddess had unshackled herself from the chains I put around her mind, and delivered them all from me. What was going to follow was an eternity of sunlit paradise...

”...but their joy was short lived. They would’ve never expected in a million years that maybe, just maybe, they were wrong. That their beliefs were folly, and they were persecuting a pony who loved them and would be terrified of hurting them the way they did not think, but instead knew she was doing.

”And now, they were left with a grieving sister, which they had also damned to an eternity alone.

”They hadn’t realized, but Celestia never forgets a single one of her subject’s faces. She remembered everyone who was in the throne room with me when I turned. And she made sure what happened would not go without punishment.

”She turned them all into nightwalkers, and exiled them to a corner of Equestria where she made sure to never raise the sun again. She had them all stand vigil to the things that lurk in the night, that I was protecting them from to the very end. She made them safeguard the kingdom from the nightmares that I could no longer guard against. In so doing, however, she had made them partly into the type of monsters that they were fighting against.”

”Afterwards, she went to barter for me. She pleaded, demanded, begged for my release, but it wasn’t until it seemed as though she was going to die waiting, for weeks on end, broken and crestfallen, that she finally received an answer. She would receive me back after a thousand years, even if I was going to plunge the world into darkness upon my arrival as an insane demigod.

”That was three years ago, and I am thankful with all of my heart that I failed.”

I brushed a few locks of hair out of his face as he slept. I could sense that he was still listening to what I was saying.
I tucked him in.

”I was given a second chance. What I want from you is to receive one as well. Please, believe me. I know how it feels to have the entire world against you. To have those you care about betray you and accuse you of being something worse than you are. You don’t need to be what others consider you to be. You have the chance to leave all of that behind you. You have a choice here, and I will never let anyone hurt you like that again.”

Author's Note:

(*)Unicorns have magical outlets in their horns, similar to how pegasi have outlets on their wings. All ponies have outlets on their hooves (earth ponies noticeably more). The hoof outlets allow for what is generally known as "unconventional magic". It's pretty strong. Strong enough to, say, snap a sonic screwdriver in two in their fetlock (totally not a reference to anything, honest).

I'm not bashing on religion, I'm bashing on people's proclivity to take certain liberties when they believe they have the right to be hateful, and use that belief in order to go out of their way to hurt others. Like for instance, how people would burn witches to the stake, or how religious leaders would preach to knights and crusaders, telling them some hogwash about how they were fighting for god, and that all of their war crimes would be forgiven.

I wish I could build on this theme better, but for now I'm just kind of focusing on introducing the main characters.
I'll be returning to this whole religious persecution matter later, hopefully give it the limelight it deserves.

Next chapter, Necky clobbers a guard... On an unrelated note, say in the comments section how physically strong you think necromancy could make a malnourished, half dried up adult human male. Then say how far it could strengthen a malnourished ten-year-old colt.

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