• Published 17th Nov 2011
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Fallout: Equestria- The Last Sentinel - Adder1



It's hard to kill memories when you remember everything.

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Chapter Eighteen: Back from the Brink

Chapter Eighteen: Back from the Brink


Blackness, I was surrounded by blackness. I was floating in a void- no sense of direction, no feeling except a horrible sense of vertigo. The world was spinning, yet it was constant- constant blackness. I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn't. I could barely feel any part of myself. It was only enough to feel... uncomfortable, uncomfortable like when you anticipate someone or something is about to hit you but the blow never comes. Always on edge, unnecessarily.

My first thought- is this death?

“Very close.” I heard Her whisper.

Love... are... does this mean that we're...

“No, not yet, not yet.” She let out a deep, shuddering sigh. “Frost... please forgive me...”

What are you doing...?

“Forgive me...”

There was an unholy, wretched, disgusting squelch, and infinite blackness turned to infinite whiteness.

And then blackness, I was surrounded by blackness.

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My eyes were closed- still black, but I could feel at least. But I felt... awful. You know that feeling of having a heavy pit inside your stomach? I was feeling that for sure, and it felt like my skin was crawling with something. But I was alive. I was... alive. I felt my heart beat softly in my breast, and I felt a regular pant of cool breath against the inside of my mouth. Something was constricting it, made it hard to escape. Some kind of... cloth. I felt that kind of cloth everywhere... not good. I was still in dracopony form- I knew that much. My ears perked up to conversation muffled by the same kind of material. I didn't hear any gunshots- good news at least. My sense of smell was going haywire. Some scents trickled in. They were much duller, yes, but I could still make them out. Sterile- that was Rig. Heavy- that was Azrael. Hard to describe her scent- it just came to me as... heavy. Metal and rust- Malcom was nearby. Oddly, that brought me the most comfort. But mostly I smelled something... burnt. That didn't bode well. I didn't try to move- not just yet. I was lying on my back. That much I could tell.

Not good.

“Easy now.” Azrael's voice came from my side, slightly muffled.

“A-Azrael,” I rasped hoarsely, roughly, scratchily. I sounded... almost like a ghoul.

Yeah. Definitely not good.

“Frost?” Rig's voice now from beside wherever Azrael was. “Twilight Sparkle am I glad to see you're okay! Well... figuratively speaking... you're talking at least.”

“Relatively speaking,” Azrael corrected. “Now give him some space.”

“What... What's going...” I weakly sputtered.

“The ceasefire is in effect again,” the griffiness said. “We're safe. We're all safe. You, however... you're safe, yes, but...”

I let out another restrained sigh. “How bad is it?

“You're about to find out. Slowly, now- try to open your eyes.”

“At least... tell me if it's worse than Stalliongrad.”

“I don't know if I can answer that.”

Alright, well, here we go. This is going to suck, I can just tell.

I cracked my eyelids open. They had an added weight to them, and I halted after just a crack for my eyes to adjust to the light. Even choked by the clouds, it was enough to send the sliver I could see into pure white. Spots danced before my eyes as I unconsciously glanced around. The whiteness began to peel back, and I fully opened my eyes.

I saw a massive, black, scaly claw covering my vision, trying to block out the light so my eyes could adjust. It slowly pulled back to reveal Azrael and Rig, both stooped over me with worried expressions. The griffiness appeared unharmed, but Rig was pockmarked with several holes- even one in the cheek. Thankfully, they all appeared to be where her machinery was, though her cybernetic nature was now visible to all. I quickly took in my surroundings. I was in my apartment room, my home. I was lying on my mattress, head propped up on a musty pillow.

“Hey, uh... how do you feel, Frost?” Rig asked with a smile. I knew it was forced. The fact I could see the small pistons curving up her jaw didn't help that notion.

“I feel like my coat's trying to crawl off,” I replied. My voice and breath were muffled lightly by the bandages covering my muzzle. I felt them tug up as I offered as sincere and comforting a smile I could muster.

Looking down at my snout and the rest of my body, I realized I was covered head-to-hoof in magical bandages.

Wait. Bandages. I was covered head-to-hoof in bandages. I wasn't wearing my armor. It made sense. They had to remove it in order to plaster these... well, plasters on me. Last I remembered, I was set... on...

Fire...

No.

“No...” I muttered aloud, eyes widening as I looked frantically about, ignoring the flashes of pain erupting through my body as I craned my head around. “No! Where are they? Where are they?!”

“Frost!” Rig shouted, pressing me back to the bed, more pain flaring up where we made contact. “Frost, calm down! Calm down! What's wrong?!”

“The photographs, where are they?!”

“Don't push so hard!” Azrael hissed, the unicorn mare jumping and backing away. “But yes, calm down, Frost. Don't worry. The fire didn't reach too far under your armor. The pictures are safe. I made sure myself.” She motioned to the side of my mattress.

And there they were, lying face-down beside my armor and saddlebags. Only the latter appeared to be heavily burned. I was less concerned about my weapons and more relieved that those photos were safe. My heart still pumped wildly, but I was winding down now. All was well. All was well. Wait... how did she remove my arm- memories, right. She’s seen my memories. All was well. “Has... has anyone else seen them?” I asked weakly.

“No,” she answered. “I didn't let them.”

I lied there panting for several seconds. “Thank you, Azrael.” I let myself calm down before testing my magic. An icy-blue glow drifted into the upper portion of my vision as my horn flared to life, an ice arm sprouting from my shoulder. I still had my magic... but I was definitely weaker right now- far weaker. I actually needed to fire up my horn for something as insignificant as that. I sublimated it quickly and asked, “What happened? What's the situation?”

“Javahl, Grimm... whatever- the fucking ghoul with the flamethrower apparently didn't die,” Rig grumbled. “He arrived in Stalliongrad while you were out with Malcom and started the fight all over again. Then he set you on fire.” She let out a sigh.” Well, afterward, Malcom wrestled hold of him and slapped some sense into him, I guess. Sparkle, don't know how he did it, but he did it. Fighting stopped after a few minutes. Twelve more killed on our side, don't know how many more injured.”

“How long was I out?” I inquired.

“Only about three hours,” she responded. “It's still the afternoon.” She fiddled with her PipBuck. “Fourteen-forty-seven. Yeah, still the afternoon.”

“Are we allowed in yet?” I heard Malcom ask on the other side of the door. “Forgive me for being impatient, but I wish to speak with him as soon as possible.” Rig looked back at me with a questioning expression.

“Come in.” I beckoned.

The door fell inward with a clatter, revealing the chained griffin behind, reaching out too late to grab it. He pulled back his hand with a frown. “Sorry.”

“It was bound to happen eventually,” I sighed scratchily, mist barely filtering through the bandages. “Come in, come in.”

Malcom nodded and headed into my room with his head bowed. Rig and Azrael made way, backing toward the larger end of the room with the Steineigh piano. And right behind him was Javahl, still armored and carrying the flamethrower. His space helmet was noticeably absent.

I didn't just glare daggers at him. I glared zweihänders at him.

He offered what I think might have been an attempt at a sincere smile. Instead, it came out sickly and slyly as he drew in a deep breath through his teeth. “HHiiii...”

“Go fuck yourself,” I said flatly.

“Whoa, hey, hey, jeez...” Javahl held up his hands defensively, his face etched in exaggerated bewilderment. “Let's be friends here, right? No need for hatin', no need for hatin'...”

“You set me on fire, employed raiders to pillage, rape, murder, and burn down Alhambronco; and caused my friends and myself considerable hardship.” I paused. “Did I mention you set me on fire?”

“Pfft.” He swat the air with a lazy hand. “It's all in the past.”

“It was literally three hours ago,” I growled.

“About three hours,” Rig corrected.

Not helping my cause, Rig!” I grumbled at her.

“Sorry...”

“Well hey!” Javahl shrugged, pursing his beak. “In my defense, you shot me a lot, crushed several of my internal organs including my spleeeeeeen- sorry, always wanted to say that- oh, and you set me on fire. Twice, by the way. Luckily, ghostfire is surprisingly friendly to ghouls! I mean, we're already necrotized by balefire, you know! Uh, I meant luckily for me. Not luckily for you. You also killed quite a few of my worshiping underli- I mean friends. You broke your little truce with me, too. Oh, and I only burned you. Once. Horvahd here was nice and put you out with his own cloak.” He shrugged. “I didn't get that luxury.”

“Actually, you burned me too,” Rig spoke up.

“And me,” Azrael added. “And then you kissed me. I still haven't forgiven you for that.”

“Okay, okay, I forget, jeez,” Javahl said glumly, crossing his forelegs. “I'm two-hundred-thirty-one. Cut me some slack if my memory falters. But yeah, as far as I'm concerned, this makes us even.”

“Grimm,” Malcom uttered.

Javahl let out an exasperated sigh and slumped. “Okay, okay, fine. I'm sorry, okay? I just want you to know that-” He hobbled over to me and took my hoof in his hand, patting it with the other, “- that there are no hard feelings anymore.” The patting was a little painful.

I continued glaring at him, narrowing my eyes.

“Yeesh, boy, I said I was sorry,” Javahl grumbled, backing away. “What else do you want from me? I'm The God of Vitality and Atrophy! You should be grateful I'm here apologizing at all! But eh...”

I only gave him a muffled grunt. I turned to Malcom. “Did you need something of me?”

“I only wanted to check on how you were doing,” the chained griffin sighed. He nodded to Azrael. “We... had a chance to talk while you were out.”

“And how'd that go?”

“Surprisingly well,” Azrael offered simply. “Both of us are still alive, aren't we?”

“Agreed.” Malcom nodded. “But... there's another matter. It involves you.” I arced an eyebrow. “You should have died from those injuries, Frost. Do you have any idea how you're still alive?”

“That's something I've been asking myself for a long time, Malcom,” I huffed. “I don't have an answer to that.”

“Well I do,” he answered, expression hardening. Mine did as well, though more or less obscured behind the layer of bandages. Seeing that I made no response, he told me, “You ate the two of my griffins that I ordered to render medical.”

I deadpanned at him in disbelief. I ate two griffins while unconscious? Impossible, but... Malcom wasn't the kind of griffin to lie about such a thing.

“You... what?!” Rig stared at me, mouth agape. “Azrael, did you know about this?!”

The ebony griffiness let out a sigh. “Yes, I did. However, I don't think it can be classified as cannibalism. He didn't literally devour their flesh.”

“Oh...” Rig blinked, still a bit disgusted. “Well, I... guess that's not as bad.”

“Nah, he just sprouted these black tentacle things that coiled around their bodies, ripped out some ghostie images of them, then dissolved their bodies, weapons and armor included!” Javahl grinned. “You know, not as bad! Right?”

Both Rig and I stared at him in disbelief. “The fuck...?” the unicorn mare muttered.

“Well, I thought it was pretty cool.” The griffin ghoul shrugged.

“Hold on, hold on.” I narrowed my eyes at him. “You're saying after you burned me, Malcom put me out-”

“Yeah.” Javahl nodded.

“Then he called two troopers to provide medical,” I continued.

“Yeah.” He nodded.

“And then I sprouted black tentacles...”

“Yeah!” He nodded energetically.

“And they ripped out afterimages of the griffins and then dissolved every trace of them.” I finished.

“Yeah!” Javahl nodded enthusiastically, grunting as his neck cracked.

“And so I got better from that?” I deadpanned at him.

“Uh-huh!” The griffin cosmonaut crossed his arms and nodded proudly. “I still thought it was pretty cool!”

“Based off of what Malcom described,” Azrael spoke at last, “it appeared that you broke their bodies down and absorbed them into yourself. Your injuries were noticeably healed in the process. Perhaps not enough for you to recover completely,” She motioned at my bandages, “but enough to save your life.”

Wha...? But... the... wh... what?

“Okay, I... really, really hope I'm not the only one unsettled by all of this.” I shuddered, lying back in bed with a heavy, exasperated sigh.

“Nope!” Rig exclaimed, still wide-eyed.
“I think not,” Azrael said.
“You aren't,” Malcom muttered.
“Yep, you are!” Javahl beamed. “... uh, crap. You heard nothing.”

I let out another muffled sigh, quiet for a few seconds. “Was there anything else you wanted to discuss?”

“Only wanted to offer a formal apology to Stalliongrad for the firefight there,” Malcom answered, taking a moment to glare at Javahl. “And, since I noticed you have a thing for balisongs...” He carefully removed a pouch from under his cloak using his dagger-like fingers and set it down by my side, “... I offer this as an apology to you as well.”

I raised an eyebrow- or rather squinted an eye due to the bandages- and flared up my horn, sprouting a pair of ice arms to pick up the pouch and remove its contents. Inside was a balisong with dark-gray handles that seemed to be made from reclaimed metal, slightly curved. “Malcom, I can't take this.”

He huffed, “I don't have much use for it anymore.” He held up a hand and splayed his claws. “I'd probably break it anyway. Besides, I already have enough reminders on me...” He idly tugged at a chain before looking up at me. “Just keep it.” I looked it over and squeezed the handles to pop the latch. I pulled off a Basic Horizontal to reveal a semi-serrated, gently curved blade with a hooked end. While open, the balisong's blade slightly curved in the opposite manner of the handles. The curved-hilt design allowed for stronger strikes and more torque when using the hooked end as a tool, and the blade had a wider variety of applications due to its semi-serrated nature. Stylish yet practical. It struck me as fitting for the chained griffin.

Half Twirl to a reverse grip. Screwdriver to close it. Flip to basic grip, then Cherrypicker. The balisong squeaked and clacked loudly all the while. Javahl pursed his beak and nodded, impressed. I pulled an Aerial to catch it clo- no, I just caught it by the blade again. Could use some WD-40 on the tang screws. I looked up at Malcom and walked the blade closed. “Thank you.”

He nodded and looked at Javahl. Javahl looked back at him. “What?” The ghoul blinked. Malcom only narrowed his eyes. “Oh you seriously can't expect me to... you expect me to, don't you?” He let out an exaggerated sigh. “Okaaaaay, fiiiiiine.” He removed a crimson, skeletonized balisong, pulling a Hell Around the Bend to whip the drop-point tanto blade out, popped it into the air, and caught it by pinching the sides of the blade. He tossed it up into air, letting it spin closed, caught it, and handed it to me. I set Malcom's blade down and reached out to take it, but the ghoul pulled it away. Then he offered it again. “You better take care of her.”

“I will,” I said, accepting the blade.

“You. Better. To be honest, at least it's you I'm giving my baby to, but eh. I'm out. And no, I won't kill anyone... yeesh...” Javahl stood up with a grunt and hobbled out, grumbling to himself all the while.

“Well, I think that covers it,” Malcom sighed, starting away as I set the blade down. “Frost, are you really sure you don't know what happened?”

“Yes,” I answered. “I have no idea how or why it happened.”

“Well, you better find out,” he said. “Don't need to know a thing about magic to know that's necromancy. I’ll try to keep things quiet on my end. Though honestly,” he let out a dry chuckle, “it’ll deter us from attacking if word gets out.” He let out a sigh. “Frost, make no mistake. You're an enemy of The Dead Boys by now. You killed a lot of us.”

“So what does that make us?” I asked.

He drew in a deep breath. “Not quite enemies. Not quite allies. I don't want to fight you- or anyone, really. But I'm still a Dead Boys griffin. I can't help you.” Then he cracked a thin smile. “But I don't have to stop you. Do what you must. Farewell.” He gave me a quick bow before departing.

We were all quiet for a long time. Several times I opened my mouth to say something, but I quickly closed afterward. What could I say to all that? I survived by unconsciously killing and absorbing two griffins! How do answer to that? My mind was racing for something to say, yet I came up with nothing at all.

I didn't have to.

“Frost... why did you do it?” Rig finally asked.

Finally, something I could reply to, even if she did have an edge to her tone. “I didn't even know I did it, Rig. I can't perform any other magic other than cryomancy- I tried!”

“But you still did it!” she exclaimed. “It's freaking necromancy, Frost! Magic! Creepy-ass, dark magic but still magic! Last I heard, you can't pull magic off without concentrating!”

“He was unconscious and near death, Rig,” Azrael said in that calm tone of hers. “That I know for sure. He has no reason to lie to us anymore- remember that.” Luna bless that griffiness. “I have feeling he's just as confused and torn up inside as we are. Let him rest. He almost died today.”

Rig let out a breathless sigh. “Yeah... yeah.” She looked back at me. “Sorry.”

“It's fine,” I said. Wait a minute... “You just have a feeling, Azrael?”

The ebony giant looked toward me with those blank, gray eyes. “I can't read you.”

“What? My mental shield is down, though.”

“I still can't read you.” Azrael shook her head. “And given what I saw before applying those bandages... I'm not surprised.” She gave me a look that implied that nobody else saw.

I sighed sharply, mistily. “... do you mind if I want to be alone for a bit?”

Rig looked up at Azrael for a moment, worry creasing her brow. Indigo eyes back on me, she asked, “For how long?”

“Just... just give me five, maybe ten minutes,” I answered scratchily. “Please. You can stay right outside. I just... want to be alone for a bit.”

“Well, what are we gonna do about the whole necromancy thing? What're we gonna tell everyone else?”

I looked from her to Azrael and cast my gaze downward. “Let's... keep it quiet for now.”

The earthy unicorn groaned and sat down on her haunches, raising a hoof to her face. “Oh hell no...”

“Rig...”

“Hell no, Frost!” she shouted. “I thought you were done with lying!”

“I'm not lying about it!” I growled in a manner so animal it surprised all of us. I looked away and continued, “I'm not lying about it this time. Just... I'm not going to speak on the issue until I... we learn more about it.” I turned back to face her. “I don't like all this either. But look- I just walked around Stalliongrad in dracopony form. Now I'm covered in bandages and can perform necromancy- without having any idea how I did, mind you. Stalliongrad's people are bloodied and weary. The Dead Boys are still right on our doorstep. How well do you think they'll react to that?”

“Dammit...” Rig sighed, defeated. “Fine, but I still don't like the idea...”

“I'm sorry.” I offered lamely.

“Whatever, just... do what you gotta do.” The cloud-maned mare headed back outside, Azrael following behind her with thudding footsteps. She let the giant pass through the doorway before levitating the door back into place. I could hear her working on fixing it up. Well, if it took her mind off of it...

I waited there for Her to show up. The seconds trickled by. I lied there, my body just feeling all wrong. I waited. And waited.

By the time two minutes trickled by, I softly called out, “Love...?”

No answer.

I swallowed hard and flattened my lip. I couldn't wait any longer. I fired up my horn and formed a reflective square of ice. Yes, I was indeed bandaged all over, but what caught me were my eyes. They were still slanted like those of a zebra and the pupils were still slitted, but they now had a milky color similar... no, exactly like those of a ghoul. That was... worrisome. Taking a deep breath, I sprouted a pair of ice arms and unraveled the bandages around my face, gazing into my reflection all the while. As the rolls came off, the patches that showed through had no hide to speak of- there was only mottled, browned hide. I definitely looked like a ghoul now. If Azrael's inability to read me at all was any indication, I could very well be a ghoul now.

But what bothered me most were the thin, black tendrils that laced through my skin like isolated, haphazard stitches.

I just looked into my reflection for a long time. I remember that I sighed four times over a period of a few minutes before trying to reach my hoof up and touch one of them. My foreleg didn't even budge. I felt my muscles tax, but I couldn't do more than look around with my head and talk. Instead, I reached out toward one with an icy finger.

“Don't touch them,” She whispered.

I sublimated all the ice in an instant, looking over to Her. She was seated beside me, looking out the glassless window into the desolate Stalliongrad skyline. Something seemed... off about her. “Love... are you alright?” I asked quietly, hoarsely.

“I'm alive, and so are you,” She answered, still turned away. “I guess that's what matters.”

“Love,” I called again softly. “Look at me.”

She hunched over, tensing.

“Look at me,” I repeated in a rough whisper.

She did this time, biting Her lip. She was squinting Her eyes- I knew She was trying very, very hard not to cry right now. “I'm sorry...”

“Shhhh...” I tried to hush her. Instead it came out as a dry hiss. I winced. “Love, it's alright. It's alright.”

“No, no it isn't!” She gritted Her teeth. “Just...” She lost the fight for words and stooped over further, clenching Her eyes shut.

“What is it?” I asked. “I want to help.”

She let out dry, mirthless chuckle. When She opened Her eyes again, they were glassy but clear. “You wouldn't believe me if I told you.”

“Love...”

“No, Frost,” She sighed. “I meant it. You wouldn't believe me. Not as is.”

I let out a sigh of my own. “Love...” I hesitated. If She didn't want to talk about it, then it could wait. I could wait a long time. “Will you be okay?”

She took a few seconds to reply. “I should be. Yes.”

“But will you be?”

She looked at me mournfully. “I don't know. I honestly never have with all that's happened.”

“Come over here?” I asked. “Please?”

She smiled softly before lying down beside me. I tilted over and gave Her a soft nuzzle. Pain flared up through my snout, but I fought it back down. I had worse. I had worse, I kept telling myself. I had worse. She needed it. She nuzzled back gently, restraining Herself as if knowing of my pain.

“Like you said,” I rasped, “we're still there- together. That's what counts.”

She nodded slowly for a few seconds. “You should put the bandages back on, love.”

“Yeah,” I sighed. “Yeah.” I sprouted my ice arms once more and started tucking the bandages back in place. “Can you at least tell me what those... things are?”

“They're... holding you together right now,” She told me reluctantly, looking away. “Don't touch them. They'll help you heal later...”

I regarded her for a few seconds. “How do you know this much while I don't?”

“Maybe I'm just guessing,” She huffed with a wan smile as I finished rolling the bandages back up. She gently caressed my cheek after I finished. “After all... I'm your crazy, right?” She sighed. “Rest well, Frost. Don't push yourself.”

I nodded slowly and turned away. “See you again soon, Nightingale.”

I already knew She was gone.

I glanced at the face-down photographs of an age long gone, picking them up in my ice fingers and looking them over. “It's time, love. For you and me both.” I slipped them into my saddlebags and called, “Rig! Azrael!”

The pair reentered shortly after, the door swinging in- and not falling. “Good as new!” Rig smiled proudly. “Well, relatively speaking, anyway...” She looked at me, smile fading. “So... you alright?”

“I will be, yes,” I replied. “Look, I know this might be a bit much after all that's been going on lately, but, I'm going to need to ask a favor of both of you?”

“What is it?” Azrael inquired.

“The Dead Boys are going to be here for another week, maybe two,” I said. “And... with how I am, I might be out of commission for that time, maybe longer. The people of Stalliongrad are weary, too. They need their rest. They need something to take their mind off of things. I think we do too.”

“What are you getting at?” Rig questioned.

I spoke, “Azrael, I want you to tell everyone to meet at the Stalliongrad Community College, namely the Social Sciences Lecture Hall. And I mean everyone. As for you, Rig,” I turned to her, “I want you to bring all the boxes in my bathroom. My saddlebags too. Azrael can help with that. She'll probably need to carry me in any case. And my armor. It's about time everyone got to share in your belated birthday present.”

She had a lovely smirk.

||

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<-------->

<========>

<====ooO Ooo====>

The audience members reeled or looked around in confusion as Roanoke pulled away from them. Soon, all eyes were on him for an answer. He only needed to look at the entryway.

The Sentinel was back- and in dracopony form.

Thank you, Roanoke. But I think it's time I took over again.

* * *

Footnote: Frost- Maximum Level
Condition- Critical; necrotic regeneration underway. -4 penalty to Strength, Perception, Endurance, and Agility. -50% penalty to natural DT and DR. All legs and torso are crippled.

Rig- Level Up! Level 12 Reached

Azrael- Maximum Level

Unlockables added: Soundtrack- Alive

Inspiration- Malcom's Balisong

Soundtrack- Return of the Storyteller

Author's Note:

My thanks to the FoE community for the wonderful thing it is today. Discussion, idle chat, semantics, RPing... you guys and gals (and dicebots... graah) are the best (worst). Thank you as well to Broadestpeak for pre-reading this for me. Feedback is greatly appreciated as always, especially on this one. This... ugh, I’m not happy with, to be honest. There’s just so many content concerns that I just felt... graah. Well, nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed it. Because we’re winding up for the flashback.

And be sure to check out the Ask Frost Windchill tumblr!

And yes, a lot of this was written stealthily. I'm Solid Adder, yo!

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