• Published 12th Jun 2015
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I Am Not a Charlatan! I Am Mysterio, Master of the Arcane Arts! - The Quidam



Ethan Mcintyre had dreams to become an actor, magician, and/or special effects artist. So who else should he go to a convention as, but the supervillain, Mysterio! How could things have ended with him in a magical world due to a mysterious figure?

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Issue 3-A Dragon and a Zebra Walk into a Castle!

When in New York, people must adapt to whatever changes quickly befall them. It is something that the citizens must quickly accept if they wish to thrive in this city that never sleeps. The city is a big collection of the latest trends in entertainment, media, and lifestyles. At the same time, it is a constant and unfaltering pillar in the subconscious of those who live in America. It is a place where you face diversity and acceptance at equivalent amounts. For every rich person you see walking through the city, you will find their polar opposite on the other side of the block. It is a place full of familiar faces because ever stranger is equally strange to the other. So even if you find yourself seeing something amazing or exciting, it is not quite so to the New York subconscious. Everything that goes on in this city is just a regular occurrence that makes New York the amazing location it is.

Take for example the Brooklyn Bridge. It is an icon that has been featured in media nearly as often as the Statue of Liberty. Yet even now it is currently scrutinized only by a few of the many individuals who journey across it to witness one of the less common events that take place on it. In this case, it is the two outlandish beings currently fighting on top of it.

“Good going, Fishbowl! Another foot and you might have nudged me!” said the one wearing a suit of blues and reds with a spider motif. This acrobatic fighter for justice was the spectacular hero named Spider-Man. Currently he was trying to reach the top of the bridge without getting hit by blasts of energy that he was able to dodge with his spider-sense.

“You are nothing but a bug that refuses to accept the crushing blow of my boot!” said the other in a mostly green suit with yellow gauntlets and a purple cloak. The aforementioned ‘fishbowl’ was a helmet that hid his identity and glowed with each word he uttered. This was Mysterio, who was currently firing shots of energy from his gauntlets at the web crawler as he tried to climb his way up the bridge. “Now fall!”

He moved his blasts from the dodging superhero, to the actual brick above him to start a rock slide to bring him down. However, Spider-Man saw an alternate route opened to him by releasing his hold on the wall, and used the larger chunks of the bridge as stepping stones to reach his opponent. In a skilled display of his spider-like agility, Spider-Man jumped his way to the top and met Mysterio’s helm with a mighty uppercut, which knocked him down to his back.

“At least I talk like I belong in this century, Mr. Man-behind-the-curtain!” Spider-Man quipped as he readied himself to continue this match. “If you fought half as much as you talked, then maybe you might actually stand a chance when we go head to head against each other!”

Slowly, Mysterio picked himself up, straightening his cloak as he rose. “If I wanted to sully my hands with you, I certainly wouldn’t waste my time conjuring ways to defeat you, like so.”

With a flick of his wrist, he let out a cloud of smoke, which transformed into a few serpentine dragons. Spider-Man simply dodged them before flinging more web-lines at the villain. This led to one entrapped supervillain who was unable to do more than struggle out of his bonds as his tried to remain standing.

“Give up, Mysterio, none of your tricks work! They’re as out of date as the effects in a scary show for kids!” Spider-Man grunted as he tried to pull the villain towards him.

But Mysterio was unwilling to admit defeat. “No Spider-Man! It is you that shall be defeated! For I am Mysterio, Master of the Arcane-!”

The web-line connecting the wrapped super villain snapped, and with the release of momentum, Mysterio found himself falling backwards off the top of the bridge.

“Mysterio!” Spider-Man rushed to try to grab the strand, but was too late!

The supervillain could only cry out as he was helplessly tied up and falling to his doom. “WAAAAHHHH!!!”

[}0{]

“WAAAAAHHHH!!” ‘Mysterio’ cried out as he rushed into consciousness. A quick look around revealed that he wasn’t in New York facing Spider-Man, but back in the library of the derelict castle he claimed as his new base. He was somewhat thankful of the fact. As much as he would have liked to be in a populated city instead of in some strange forest of creatures and other dangers, at least he wasn’t facing imminent death right now. The dream unnerved him with how real it felt to face the web crawler one-on-one. Every brick that flew by, and every web-shot fired felt real. Even now he swore he could still feel the sense of being tied up by the strong web-lines of the superhero.

As he looked down, the supposed spell caster came to realize why the sensation hadn’t left him yet. He was tied up to the chair he slept in by a great deal of webbing!

“WHAT THE HELL!?” ‘Mysterio’ exclaimed as he struggled out of his bindings. But try as he might, he couldn’t break free. “Did I actually get tied up by that web crawling super-”

He stopped his struggling as he noticed the movement in the corner of his vision. What he found made his heart jolt in fear.

Crawling on top of these contracting strands was a multitude of spiders. Each of them was bigger than a hand and each stared at him with a set of six unblinking eyes. They had the aspects of some sick cartoonish parody of a black widow, for on their backs were large blue stars instead of the red hourglass.

Now Ethan was not known to be what you call a ‘scardy-cat’, but even you could forgive him for the shriek he gave out at the sight of all these eight-legged critters that were crawling around him.

“Back! Back up you arachnids!” He shrieked as he struggled to break his bindings. “I’m not going to be defeated by irony today!”

Closer and closer they moved towards his helmet. He could make out the drip of something from their twitching mandibles. Maybe it was venom, or perhaps the saliva that drips from hunger about to be satiated. Either way, Ethan was horrified to see it getting so near his face.

An icon stating his oxygen supply had been activated came into view at the corner of his eye. Next to it was the Spider-Man logo in a No sign. Before he could consider the implication, his suit started to release a gas that was different from the one used for suggestion. This cloud was clear with the slightest hint of violet.

The fiends seemed to stop in place as their movements started to slow. It wasn’t until the first one fell over onto its back and curled up its legs that it was finally understood what this particular fume that Mysterio was unleashing was a type of pesticide. He also felt some sort of grease being released from his is arms’ armor sections that dissolved the webbing into a state weak enough to break apart.

The spiders gave the impression well enough that they understood what was occurring before them. The cloud was death and those that stayed here would be caught by it. As for their prey, the way it was breaking its bindings showed that they trifled with something that was clearly not weak.

“I get it. You probably have a natural inclination to go after me. However, we’re in a library and I don’t think these books should be touched by your eight legs, let alone me as I sleep.” ‘Mysterio’ stated as he dusted his arms and looked at the remaining bugs doing their best to keep away from the gas. “So I suggest you get going now. I’ve just woken up and I’d hate to squash you accidentally as I stretch.”

The spiders saw the cloud receding and took that as a sign to scurry forward, and to perhaps get the jump on this should-be-prey.

“I said GET OUT!!” The cloud of death took the form of a skull and roared at the remaining arachnids. At the sight of this, they all scurried out of every window and exited out of the castle to flee the dangerous being they foolishly tried to ensnare.

[}0{]

It took a long while for Ethan to calm down after that horrible wake-up call. Even after the spiders fled the library, he still twitched at every dark nook and cranny considering how their might have been more hidden away somewhere.

“Great, so it’s not enough I have to barricade this place from tree monsters, now I gotta watch out for star spiders…as Mysterio!” He complained to no one. “Yesterday that wouldn’t be considered rational to think of, let alone say aloud!”

Currently, he was outside the costume he wore and in some light clothes. He made sure that the air was clear of toxins before taking it off. As much as he wanted to keep it on, he needed time outside of it to ease up his body and to let it recharge. It gave him a notification to let is gather up more air for the suit, so he figured to take it off would probably be best because he knew the comics only gave Mysterio an air supply of thirty minutes unfiltered.

His hands were busy dissecting one of the dead spiders for anything useful. Normally, he wouldn’t even go near the things with a ten foot broom handle, but here he was taking one apart for it’ s fangs and venom sacks. He collected them into little jars he found for what he assumed were plants that died ages ago. As he did so, he pondered what he was seeing as well as why he was doing it.

‘So these spiders have some sort of liquid I’ve certainly never seen before.’ He held the jar up as he inspected the gathered liquid glowing in a bright translucent blue. ‘It looks like Zydrate. Yet for all I know, this stuff is potent enough to kill me a hundred times over!’

He carefully placed the jar back on the table, making sure that it wouldn’t spill. He then placed the fangs in the other jar as he threw the rest of the spider into a larger pot that had a fire going inside it.

‘Still, this whole idea to collect these things, and the method to do so…just popped into my head.’ He wondered just how it occurred to him and what did he benefit from doing it. “Anyways, now that’s done, time for more important things.”

He considered the first main concern: getting provisions for survival. As much as he would like to live on a diet of trail mix and animal crackers, Ethan knew he needed a better source of food to keep himself going. So the first thing was to figure a means to gather something edible and to find clear drinking water.

By the time the sun was in its highest point in the sky, Ethan was surprised to find himself sitting down and reading a book while casually eating some fruit and drinking some water he found in the nearby environment. As he sipped the water, he felt confident in how he knew he could drink it and not worry about dehydration or starvation in the coming days. All he had to worry about now was to figure out a plan to find his way home.

Still, it amazed him was how all these survival worthy techniques just came to his mind. He knew how to get water, and know which plants were safe to eat just by looking at them carefully. If he thought about it more, he could think up ways to collect game by imagining blueprints for traps in his mind. Yet, he still wondered where these thoughts were coming from. Sure he used to watch shows such as Survivorman with his dad back in the day, and he was always picking up the odd fact like how you could make a toothbrush out of a reed, but this was much different. In some ways, he was thankful, but in others he was worried that this was a sign of some form of psychotic breakdown. Considering he was witnessing tree monsters, scorpion-lions, and star spiders, sanity was getting harder to maintain.

“If I am going mad then I wish I could have some company. Going insane is a lonely business.” He muttered as he turned the page of the latest book he found. It was entitled ‘The Changeling Queen’ by an Endmound Spinster. “Besides, having someone to talk to would probably pass the time faster than reading these stories staring characters with silly sounding names.”

Before he could delve further into the adventures of a knight named Red Cross and how he embodied the virtue of holiness alongside his lady Una Cornerstone, there was a noise that resounded distantly in the halls. Ethan ceased his reading and carefully bookmarked the page as he listened for the noise. He slowly picked his helmet off the desk and placed it on after realizing what it was.

Someone was knocking on the main entrance doors!

[}0{]

Ethan readied himself mentally as he prepared to encounter anything that was trying to get through those large doors. Granted, he had yet to fully understand what he was capable of beyond gas clouds and Jedi mind tricks. While he still hoped for some sort of energy blast, surely those options would be better than just the candelabra he picked up as a melee weapon. Carefully he moved aside the furniture he set in front of the doors as a barricade. The banging looked as if it stopped with the sound of it grinding against the floor. With it placed aside he pulled the great doors open, and stood at the ready as an imposing character wrapped up in a cloak. What he expected was another beast rearing to attack him. What he found was something that didn’t fit that exact description.

It was reptilian, with greenish scales, and had wings of leathery skin. Yet Ethan came to discover that this creature was different from the other beasts he met in this forest. She, for he took the slight sign of curves of the body to designate it as a ‘she’, was possibly the strangest discovery that he made so far in his time at ‘Castle Wonder’. She wore what appeared to be a simple cloth wrap like garment around her upper torso, and had a long skirt that covered her legs and had an opening for a tail. While Ethan was a tall enough fellow with his height around 5’ 11’, he could tell that had this Dragoness stood up, she would be around a foot taller.

Yet there were other details that stuck out to him. It was mostly around her face. She has a rounded spike on her snout and six other horns sticking out on the back frills of her head. However, her eyes were what drew his attention the most. They were slit as a clear sign of reptilian inheritance, yet the yellowish colored orbs were expressive in a way that only something with sentience could convey.

She was a creature that he knew from legends as something to fear, but her eyes showed him something that looked afraid and in despair.

If that wasn’t enough, she appeared to be starved to death and was barely able to cry out to him. “Please…h-h-help!”

She fell forward and just lay there in front of the main doors, probably passed out from exhaustion. The young man dressed up as Mysterio gawped at this sight and contemplated a proper response to this turn of events.

He wasn’t exactly sure why his first choice was to duck down, move her arm over his shoulder, and start to drag her into the castle like a drunk friend when a party ended. Truth be told, he just couldn’t leave her in the woods like she was. It felt like a death sentence being out there in the open…and he certainly wanted to live, so why not her?

Perhaps this was a means to start accepting the situation he was in as something more than being lost in the woods. He clearly saw signs of things that declared he was not in California anymore. First, it was he tree monsters, then the scorpion-lions, and after that the star spiders. Now there was this dragon. A female dragon with human-like characteristics, but a dragon still the same.

As for trusting her not to harm him, first and foremost was that she was clearly in no condition to lay so much as a hand—or claw in his case—at him. Second, she spoke a bit of English, so at the very least there wasn’t that big a language barrier, but that assumed that they even knew the language by the same name. Thirdly, she was wearing clothes. Hers were considerably more remote with them being a wrapped top and some sort of sarong/flowing skirt thing, but the fact that she wore clothing showed she had some form of sentient thought. The pattern on them was artistically done, so that was another good sign.

Of course, this led to the downside of bringing her to his base of operations. He knew nothing about her, and everything he was considering couldn’t be backed up by anything substantial.

Even though taking care of her may have been the equivalent of cutting what supplies he was able to scrounge together in half while doubling his workload, he still felt that it was the right choice that would pay off in some way.

[}0{]

“Got it!” Ethan cheered as he pulled in another catch for dinner. This was a good sized trout that was perfect to include into his current pile.

Ethan had been able to rig together a simple fishing pole from some odd and ends he found in his search through the old castle. While he didn’t have much in bait, he was amazed at how much fish he was catching with the next best thing: one of the gold coins from the case he received. He just threw it in and in about fifteen minutes, he would find a decent sized fish for his next meal. It looked as if the fish around here really found the shiny objects enticing.

Of course, he still had to be careful of other things that found them appealing too! Nothing ruined a peaceful moment of fishing than discovering that pile of rocks near the last fishing spot was really some sort of crocodile with coarse camouflage abilities. He lucked out that it was distracted by having a basket full of fish thrown at it so he could get away. His helmet didn’t even notice it until it moved, so It was a lesson he wrote deeply into his mind that even with his suit, he wasn’t a hundred percent guaranteed that he was safe from the dangers of this place. Just recalling the incident made him anxious enough to draw in his line and call it a day. It was a decent amount of fish for the meal he would cook for himself and his guest anyways.

It had been three days since he had found himself here. Two since he dragged this female dragon/lizard/ person all the way to an old bedroom of this decrepit castle. He did what first aid he could, but even he could tell what he knew wouldn’t be enough to cure what was ailing her. He saw signs of starvation such as her shrunken in frame and slight sag to her skin. She would have brief moments of consciousness, but she was too weak to do any real talking, so Ethan would just use those times he could rouse her conscious enough to eat. He made sure to do it a majority of times in his armor, so as to have a means to defend himself if she turned out to be violent. However, there may have been a few times where she was too ailing and out of sorts, so he took it off to better assist her. He didn’t worry about any reveal of his identity because at those times she seemed too out of it to even look straight ahead.

While he did worry about her status, he couldn't help but to ponder what answers she could lead to if she woke up in good enough health and was capable of talking to him. Ethan always enjoyed stories of fiction, and here was someone who could easily fit in the types of books and stories he grew up with. Tales of other worlds and other types of characters always fascinated him to this very day. The problem was that with fiction, the possibilities were infinite when it came to these types of things.

For instance, supposed she revealed that he traveled in time. This female did wear some form of tribal looking attire, so maybe he was back in a time eons ago when dinosaurs ruled, and had a much more secret society than paleontologists could find proof of existing. If that was the case, how much did he screw up the timeline by giving those animals beef jerky?

Maybe he went the other direction and is actually far into the future where mankind has left the Earth and thus it is inherited by creatures that have long since evolved into superior species. That might explain this possibly flight-capable lizard woman and the tree monsters. Her speaking the same language might be based on some ancient relic left in the dust. It would be like Planet of the Apes, except with reptiles and plants.

Then again, maybe he didn't leave his point in time; just the planet he lived on. He could be an unfortunate subject to some unseen alien observer and is in fact in some sort of hunting reservation or bloodthirsty competition. In that case, this being could be some fellow victim of circumstance, or even an opponent he’d have to fight in a Battle Royale.

But supposed the other option of him being transported into another world occurred. If that was the case, he may never find a way back with all the different universes and timelines that composed the multiverse. Heck, he might even find a way back, only to kill himself by ending up in a world in which it was like his own, except people had made it so you could only live in it if you breathed carbon dioxide instead of oxygen or something!

All this thinking was just giving him a headache induced by stress. It was times like these that he wished he could just wake up from the strangeness of this whole situation. Yet every time he wished to dismiss it as just a mad hallucination something unexpected would come along to shock him back into taking notice of his reality.

“You who choose this place as their lair! I request that you come out from there!”

Case in point, apparently he had another visitor. One who was apparently a poet perhaps? It was hard to tell with the long cloak that hid the person’s body. All he could really tell from his angle was that they were tall and were probably female by the voice. At the same time, they could not be human because they only had three fingers and a thumb, based on how it was holding a staff that was composed of bamboo with some dangling ornaments at its end.

“And who is this that asks for me? Are you an ally, or an enemy?” He shouted, making certain that his suit’s speakers made him heard.

The hooded figure immediately turned towards his direction. She held her staff at the ready with one hand while having the other reaching into a satchel she also had.

“Who are you? A traveler in search of refuge? A neighbor hoping for tea? Perhaps an adversary in the mystical arts?” Ethan asked again as he delved further into the persona of Mysterio. He stepped forward into the shadows of the doorway castle walls. This caused his body to be hidden and the only light being shown to originate from his helmet as he spoke. “I’ll come greet you as I should if you are willing to shed light on who you are.”

“I suppose such a question is only fair. I assure you I am but a mare.” She responded as she reach for her hood to lower it.

He expected maybe another dragon-like being underneath that hood. She had the same amount of fingers that he could see after all despite the lack of claws. He was certainly not expecting to see a black and white striped collection of features. She was equine in nature and was adorned in a collection of golden necklaces and earrings. Her fur looked to be mostly white with black stripes, and possessed a mohawk that ran down the top of her head. Yet despite the appearance of this striped-horse woman, it was the way her eyes gazed upon him that stood out more. They spoke of wisdom that was earned through years of harsh experience and cunning. At the same time, he could tell that she was looking at him to determine how much of a threat he was and how should she respond.

“Zecora is the name I received at birth.” The humanoid zebra replied. “Please take that knowledge for what it is worth.”

“Then I shall be sure that I remember that. I am…” He stepped into the light fully.

Now Zecora was used to seeing the strangeness of Everfree. What stepped out of the shadows was a figure like no other. He was bipedal to be certain for he stood determined on two legs at a stature that was not that far off from her own height. He was adorned in an outfit that was mostly green, yet he wore gauntlets and boots that had more of a yellow in their hue. More unusual was that he had an extra finger on each hand than she knew most bipeds possessed. He was wrapped in a purple cape that gave the impression of moving by an unseen wind. Yet the most distinguishing feature was his face, or rather his lack of one. He had a head that looked like a crystal ball that glowed whenever he uttered a word as he spoke.

“I am Mysterio, a master of the Arcane Arts.” He bellowed in a voice that possessed a deep echo. “Tell me…Lady Zecora. Where is this realm which we all find ourselves residing in?”

She found it unusual that this would be the first question such a stranger would ask first, but answered it the same.

“This realm is known by Equestria to those of the Pony descent.” She noticed a slight flinch that he gave at the admission. “Yet I see that this fact brings you discontent.”

“Indeed it does.” He lowered his head a bit. “For you see, it means that I am a stranger to you in more ways than one.”

Mysterio opened the entry way as he carried a sack full of fish inside. Seeing that he had not closed the door behind him, Zecora took this as his invitation for her to follow him inside. She entered, making sure to note route for escape if the need arose, as she waited for Mysterio to continue.

The globe-headed being set his bag of fish on a nearby table that was placed alongside a camping area. After doing so, he turned to face the stairwell to gaze upon the pair of tattered banner that hung above it. While it was difficult to determine his expression, it was clear by his stance how they now seemed to trouble him.

“I come from a place far away from here. I do not know from which direction I took, or which method it was, only that I find myself a stranger in a strange land.” He explained as he turned to face the Zebra-woman.

A stranger in a strange land indeed! Zecora considered all she knew of Equestria and couldn’t recall a land where one might find inhabitants with any form similar to his. For a moment, Mysterio had her pity.

“I can understand that plight at times and similar gripes. For I may be the only one around here with stripes.” While that was a matter she could relate to, there was still another much more important one that needed confirmation for the balance of things. “However, I have made my home here in the Everfree. So now I must ask a question that has been plaguing me.”

He shrugged and crossed his arms. “I suppose I may answer if I am able to do so.”

“Recently the Everfree has been facing a change. Timberwolves have been running which is very strange.” She discreetly reached a hand to her satchel, hoping it would be an unnecessary gesture to be disregarded. “Normally fire is what makes them flee in such a way. Yet not one spark or sign of smoke I have seen these days.”

Her other hand however gripped her staff tighter, and Mysterio did in fact take notice to that. His arms uncrossed and while he did place them behind his back, he slowly started to prepare himself to interact with certain functions on his wrist guards.

“I also passed by a manticore pride’s home. There I found traces of this thing that roams.” Before Mysterio could so much as unfold his cloak, he found the top of Zecora’s staff near the center of his head. “I found the scent of something twisted and coarse. So now I must ask, are you the source?”

While the staff had no point, Ethen could feel as if something sharp was closing in on him. He definitely did not want to test this zebra-woman’s capability with it, so he chose his next words carefully. He was grateful that having a helmet in which none could see his face helped him keep up his charade of showing no fear.

“If these ‘timberwolves’ are the wooden creatures that are quadrupedal and vicious, then yes, I am the cause of them running in fear of late. However, I assure you that what I did was nothing more than a minor…fear spell.” He answered quickly as a way to explain it. He continued the falsehood, finding that it probably was best to explain it as best as he could in magical terms. “The strange scent you are finding must be what lingers from it being cast, for you see, unlike those that need visual contact, this one was focused more on the sense of smell being that I didn’t know if they were mere magical constructs by an enemy sorcerer nearby. The fact you address them as some sort of well-established species is surprising to hear.”

Zecora still did not lower her staff. “So you inflicted them with fear to drive them away? You had no other option to keep them at bay?”

“Surprisingly, I had limited time to think so I went with the quickest available option at the time. Surely you could accept that what I chose was not something destructive, merely…persuasive.”

She tilted her had at that as she brought up the other working example for Mysterio’s possible malevolence. “And the manticores’ lair possessing that smell? Surely they hadn’t ambushed YOU there as well?

Mysterio sighed forlornly as if explaining that would be detrimental to his repute.

“Unfortunately, much as it embarrasses me to admit, I walked in their territory on accident. I thankfully was able to placate them with a simple suggestion spell so they didn’t see me as an enemy.” He held up his hands in a placating manner. “A harmless enchantment, on par with simple hypnotism, I assure you.”

Neither dared to move a muscle. It was as if to test the other’s willingness to act out. Eventually, Zecora moved the angle of her staff, which gave Mysterio enough reason to stop his fingers from reaching for his wrists and let his arms down.

“I shall accept that that answer you claim. I only hope your actions will not leave me to blame.” She sighed as she lowered her staff to an unthreatening position.

Mysterio crossed his arms at that. “And what, pray tell, would that imply?”

Zecora pointed to the main entrance as she explained. “Not far from here, there is a simple town. For some essential supplies I occasionally come down. When I come, I find not a soul there in the square. I only find empty stands and whispers of that ‘enchantress mare’.”

Mysterio didn’t need to ask any more. He understood well enough the point she was getting across.

“Well, I can hardly comment on this town and its inhabitants. However, I can assure you that you have my sincerest apologies if my actions have affected you badly these last few days.” At the sound of groaning that echoed down the halls, he turned to start his way towards the source. “I am rather preoccupied with other matters.”

Zecora took the slight haste in his steps to mean that this was a matter that might need her expertise, so she followed.

[}0{]

Zecora was glad that she kept a few healing poultices and tonics in her satchel as she examined the sickly dragon lying in the bed. “A dragon lacking a great deal of muscle and fat? Whatever could have occurred to her to cause that?”

“I have no idea. I found her at the entrance, collapsed and starved. I’ve treated her as well as I could, but there is so little I can do to help her condition.” Mysterio solemnly explained as he started to crush some berries with an improvised mortar and pestle into a paste to serve her. It was something that seemed to help, but alas showed what limited ability the sorcerer had in the healing arts. “I implore you, please, if there is anything that can be done for her, then I ask for it to be done. I shall repay the favor in any way I can.”

Now this was a change of pace. Zecora could hear the honsesty in his request and with no hesitation, she started to prepare what concoctions she had on hand.

“My potions should help keep death at bay.” She said as she moved the dragoness’ head to help her swallow the potions. “But we will need many gems for her affliction to allay.”

“Gems?” Mysterio asked.

“Yes, for dragons such as her find gems quite a feast.” She stopped her motions to give the Arcane Master a questioning look. “You did not know this at least?”

“I did not.” Mysterio answered briskly. “Again, I am from a faraway land and strange to your ways. I’d ask you more questions when time is no longer against us.”

The zebra could accept this. There would be time for questions later.

“By the way, you have yet to tell me her name.” She asked as he made to leave. “Under what clan appellation did claim?”

“I know neither myself. Perhaps if she were to fully awaken we can discover that together.” He reasoned as he hurried out the door.

Zecora pondered this as the apparent ‘Master of the Arcane Arts’ left to find gems. “Of your history and identity, he does not have a clue. Yet without hesitation, he is trying to save you.”

She gave a slight grin. “Perhaps he is not a danger that terrible after all. Yet the signs point to his forming a cabal. Hopefully he remains good when his motives are unfurled. He seems like the type capable of shaking up the world.”

[}0{]

“This is the ruins of a castle! How can there not be one shining bauble or chandelier!?” Mysterio bellowed in anger. So far he could find no trace of any gemstones. He had hoped he could find at least something of the sort in this decrepit place that once housed splendor. Yet every door he checked showed a room that was barren of anything but the most basic of furnishings. “At this point, I’d think it be better if I’d just see if I could find books in the library that may have bejeweled covers-”

A resounding thud sounded from a hallway he passed. He readied himself to deal with the possible assailant, only to find no one in the hallway. Instead, there on the ground was a golden goblet with ems encrusted into it. It lied on the ground adjacent to a trail of coins that trailed down the hall towards a now open door.

Stepping into that door was a figure dressed up in an oddly covered overcoat with an open blue umbrella hiding their features.

“Hey! Wait!” He shouted but the figure did not act like it heard him. It just stepped inside with no faltering in its stride.

Mysterio rushed after the figure, but did not find them inside the chamber. Instead, he found what he was looking for.

In the chamber was a great deal of chests and shiny items. He opened one to find a great deal of treasure probably worth tens of thousands or more! Already he could feel the rush of ideas about what he could do with this newfound wealth. Then he reminded himself of the reason why he needed those gems, and immediately closed the chest and rushed to find the Zebra and Dragon who needed them.

Had he paid more attention to his surroundings, he might have noticed the figure with the umbrella stepping out of a hidden passage in the wall. The being said not a word; only flipped an object in his hand like a coin before leaving. That object happened to be the lock to the chest Mysterio took with him.

[}0{]

It was touch-and-go for a while, but having the chest full of gems was the greatest help for the dragoness. Thanks to Zecora’s mixtures, she had enough strength to eat the glittering stones, and with each one she visibly reached a better state of health. Seeing this was enough for Zecora and Mysterio to each sleep soundly knowing that come morning, there would be three characters up with much to discuss.

So it was the next day that a zebra, a dragoness, and a Master of the Arcane Arts found themselves sitting in a large and aged dining hall about to talk about many things. Mysterio went as far out as he could with the breakfast arrangement of different fruits and nuts that he picked earlier. The prize of the table was the tea set that was polished and used for the occasion. It wasn’t much, but his guests appreciated his gesture as even they could tell he gave them the best rooms in the castle to sleep in while he stayed in a place they weren’t aware of.

The dragoness in particular looked as if she appreciated the mixture of gemstones in her servings, for she ate with gusto. While no longer just a placement of skin over a skeleton, she was still a skinny thing. Yet it was apparent that every bite into a jewel showed an increase her vitality. There was definitely more life to her today.

“I am glad that you are now well enough to speak. It makes it easier to discuss matters now that you are both guests in my castle.” Mysterio started the conversation with. He did not eat, which left the two others at the table wonder if he was capable of doing so. ”As is polite, let us introduce ourselves to one another. I am Mysterio, a Master of the Arcane Arts, and current Lord of this castle as it were. I greet you both with the hope that you will be much more pleasant company than the other inhabitants I have run into in these woods.”

“As I have greeted once before, Zecora is my name. I am an herbalist in the Everfree’s domain.” She smiled at the dragon. “I see that you appear better thanks to my art. To see you up and about brings joy to my heart.”

They waited for their third guest to answer.

“I am Tsavorite.” She simply said. Her voice was a more husky and humble tone than the deep voice of the zebra, which was probably expected of a dragon. Yet it was clearly taut due to nervousness and a bit of worry that she was expressing as a whole.

“What an interesting name.” Mysterio commented trying to lighten the mood. “That is a type of gemstone, is it not?”

“It is.” She said as she bowed her head. “I thank you for saving me. I owe you my life.”

“It isn’t mine to take.” Mysterio responded. “Nor do I think it is Zecora’s either.”

“We helped because it was the right thing to do. We did not do it to be indebted by you.” Zecora stated in agreement. “You owe me nothing for this not done for a bill. Your debt is more towards Mysterio for wanting you to live was his will.”

Tsavorite still did not raise her head. Instead she placed a claw to her heart and repeated herself.

Again Mysterio shook his domed head. “Indeed, but like I said, your life is your own to do with it as you please.”

Tsavorite was still adamant about this. “Still, what you did for me requires a life debt to pay off. As such, my life is now yours to do as you see fit. Such is the Noble Dragon Code.”

“Is there nothing I could do or say to sway you?” Mysterio pleaded, knowing this was beginning to become a circular argument.

“No, for the code is adamant that should you spare a dragon in dire need and near death, there life is debited to yours.” She bowed her head in sorrow. “For this I would grant you each a boon, but I have no horde to give nor home to return shelter to. All I have is the life you saved.”

There was personal story in those words, but Mysterio needed information on some more basic things in this setting before he could even touch that subject matter.

“Perhaps we could discuss this more as we get to it. I have a great number of pressing questions, and your actions show how my ignorance in other cultures may lead to unforeseen consequences.” “First off, assume that I know nothing about this place and its inhabitants. What are the basics if I were to properly habituate in this…’Equestria’ was it?”

“Yes, Equestria is the name of this great illustrious realm. It is mostly inhabited by ponies with Princess Celestia at the helm.” Zecora explained. “But surely you should not find that strange! They are the dwellers with the widest range.”

“I know not of the ‘ponies’ you refer to.” Mysterio answered. “In my realm they are…quadrupedal beasts of burden used for transportation and assistance in pulley labor. You are the first one I have ever met that has bipedal features and the capacity to speak and think such an intelligent capacity.”

Now this surprised the other members at the table. That sounded nothing like a Pony at all. It sounded like Mysterio knew only a beast of burden facsimile of what a Pony should be.

“What about dragons?” Tsavorite asked. She knew ponies were the most widely spread type of residents in Equestria, but Dragons spread a bit farther to parts they were not as willing to settle. Surely this stranger must have met one of her type of kin in his lifetime!

“That is different. None have shown themselves in my realm beyond what we consider myths. I have heard a multitude of stories about them and their kind. However, there are so many supposed facts in them that it is hard to tell what is factual and what is fictitious.” He explained with his arms crossed in discomfort. He was not blind to how every word he spoke seemed to disturb them further. “Still, you too, Tsavorite are the first I have ever seen.”

Neither knew just how to respond to that. Just what kind of world did he come from?

“Perhaps it’s best I don’t speak more on this matter. It’s clear that our worlds are too different to accept it all at once just yet. It is better to take it in increments as we go forward.”

“It’s probably for the best. Still, how did you get here if you came from a land that seems farther than Equestria’s borders?”

“That I wish I could tell you, but the details are feeble at best. I was at a... good-natured gathering…in which many sorcerers and other fellows of the impressive sort assembled to meet up, sell their wares, and to overall have a good time.” That seemed to be a good way to explain a convention to an anthropomorphic dragon and zebra. “I was haggling wares from a merchant and made a great bargain. I was even offered a chance for employment from a third party to which the merchant acted as an intermediary. The very next thing I recall is waking up in a forest and about to be attacked by a pack of those ‘timberwolves’.”

“And that is where you struck them with fear.” Zecora recalled. “I’m assuming not long after you took residence here?”

“Well, I tried to find civilization, but the closest I found was this derelict castle.”

“I’m surprised you have lasted this far. The Everfree is full of predators and other things bizarre.”

“Yet you reside here.” Mysterio quipped.

“Yes, I do, that is true. But I know well how to live here, unlike you.”

“Perhaps, but surely you cannot deny the benefits of residing in a castle! Back home I would be lucky to even find a room at an affordable price. Here I am the lord of a place that shall be a wonder to come for a social call.” He stood up and spread his cape in a grand sweep. “Thus, I have retitled it ‘Wonder Castle’. It shall be a place of majesty, dignity, and grandeur! The perfect place to hold my stratagems for my ultimate goal! I admit it will take much work to bring it up to my specifications. However, doing so may be a sufficient usage of my time, which it seems I have much to spend. ”

Zecora and Tsavorite had different reactions to this proclamation. The dragoness insinuated surprise and awe at haring such dedication. It gave a glimmer of a smile to her face. Yet the same could not be said for Zecora who had a slight look of apprehension at this news. She found it was best to address the ruins they were currently in.

“I know a bit of these ruins that you have recently acquired.” Zecora began. “This place was where a battle between the day and the night transpired. Two goddesses came and brawled for what they believed to be their right. Only the one of the day left after sealing the one of the night.”

“But in order for you to understand their fight, I must first bring a few other things to light…”

And so Zecora spoke of a history in which three tribes of ponies grew alongside each other in Equestria. There were the Unicorns, which could cast magic and control all that it pertained to. The skies and the weather were under the domain of the Pegasi. As for the land itself, that was the territory of the Earth ponies that were known for their strength and their connection with nature itself. It was centuries spent in oppositions with each other, but ultimately they united under one banner which would be led by two sisters who exhibited the traits of all three tribes: Princess Celestia of the Day and Princess Luna of the Night. While they defended their kingdom with their almighty abilities, eventually a rift formed between them that led to the younger Princess of the Moon attacking The Princess of the Sun in their home at the previous capitol. While the current capitol was Canterlot that did not lessen the fact that they were currently in the ruins of what was once the most important place in the realm.

“Many centuries of peace where established hence. Although sometimes at another’s expense. Still from that battle none have come here to lay root. They believe it to be cursed so neither do they loot. Plus we are deep into the woods of the Everfree. Being here is to have doom be more or less a guarantee.”

Mysterio was enraptured by this tale as simplified as it was. He filed it into his mind later to see if the library would have more to say on it.

“Interesting,” Tsavorite commented. “None have come to the very least restore the foundations?”

Zecora shook her head. “None would come out of fear for the Everfree. What good is an old capitol if it brings death to you or me?”

“Quite. So what you are saying is that in all this time, not one person-being they pony or even dragon- has come here to reclaim this ruin for any reason?” Mysterio asked.

“When you say it like that, it sounds like foolish superstition.” Zecora frowned. “But still, that is mostly why you find a lack of competition. If you are so stalwart in your mission, then I have no way to counter your ambition.”

Mysterio took those words to mind, but found very little he could say to sway the argument reasonably to his favor. The place had cultural significance, but at the same time this seemed to have a few resources he needed for his endgame. It was more pertinent that he investigated that library now that he knew it was speaking in an authentic fantasy setting and not one based in fiction and metaphors. As for everything else, well he was only making the best out of a bad situation after all!

“I don’t believe I have much else choice, Lady Zecora. I have said it before, and I will say it again. I am a stranger in a strange land. I must therefore do what I can to adapt until I can find a way to meet my ultimate goal. To do so will require a long list of objectives to be completed before anything I formulate to be fully realized.”” Mysterio answered solemnly. “Besides, what harm would it be to make this place more bearable to host company? Surely you cannot deny that this place would need a good remodeling after such a climactic battle. Even you must admit to give it that would not bring any strife to anyone.”

Zecora said nothing for a long while as she contemplated Mysterio’s stance on claiming the castle. On one hand, there was really no reason she should prevent him from doing it. He did not seem to want it out of maliciousness, and surely anything of value or danger would have been removed from grounds to Canterlot and its archive centuries ago. On the other hand, having him here may have given him a prime position to invade other territories based on its location in Equestria. Still, as much of a sorcerer he claimed to be, he had yet to show anything a simple Solar Guard couldn’t handle. That and he was but one being and all on his own for the most part.

“I have yet to see you bring actual harm to this land. So I suppose I may still be willing to offer a hand.” She relented as she turned towards Tsavorite’s direction. “You stopped this poor dragon from becoming deceased. A hand in friendship I can offer at least.”

Mysterio was relieved to here that. “You have my thanks, and a promise that so long as I am treated well, these inhabitants have nothing to fear.”

“That’s good enough I suppose. I’ll still be cautious of you and your strange clothes.” Mysterio tried to hide his flinch at that. It seems she did catch on to his movements earlier. “But if I am wrong to give you the benefit of the doubt…”

A wide smack revealed the shattered cup that Mysterio had set next to his plate. The culprit was the staff in Zecora’s hand now lying next to her seat.

“I will not even give you the chance to cry out! After all, let me tell you something not so funny. I am capable of taking a bugbear’s life and their honey.”

Now that was a serious claim! Mysterio had no inkling of whatever this Bugbear was like in the woods, but just the fierceness of that statement was enough to make him forever note to never be on this mare’s ‘list’. “Of course! I wouldn’t expect one who walks freely in this Everfree Forest to do anything more.”

He then turned address the dragon in the room. “What about you, Tsavorite? Do you feel concerned with my presence here?”

“No, nor do I have no reason to dissuade you from coming here.” “But if you were willing, I would ask if I may help you in your goal as part of my debt to you.”

“Wouldn’t you rather just go home?” Mysterio asked. “I am willing to offer you room and board for the time of you recovery, but you may find that they may lack in the quality to your standards.”

“It does not matter. I have no home to return to.”

“And why is that?” He asked, noticing her eyes beginning to water. It didn’t take a genius to notice something was wrong.

She composed herself to speak her troubles. “For reasons I would rather not say, I left my homeland, in order to find my own place. However, a few weeks ago, another dragon came across my lair. Rather than face me in proper combat, he waited until I was well into sleep and smoked me out in my own cave. While I fortunately was able to escape, I had to leave it and my horde behind.”

What could a person really say to that? For a long time Mysterio said nothing. He could feel the stares of his guests bearing into him. One was hoping to be allowed to stay here, while the other waited to see what kind of decision the Master of the Arcane Arts would make and base their judgement upon it.

It was with that mental reminder of what he now was that started the chain reaction in Mysterio’s mind. For he got an idea, one that would have been considered stupid, maybe even suicidal if any other thought of it.

“What if I were to get your hoard back from this loathsome thief? What if I were to drive him away and to take back everything he stole from you plus interest?”

“Then you would have my most solemn oath.”Tsavorite looked hopeful. “I would serve you as I promised. Your will would be my will. All would be for my master.”

He was not any fool or cheap practitioner of magic tricks. HE was Mysterio! A man capable of so much more!

“Then I would accept your offer.” Mysterio sat forward with his hands folded in resolve. “I will make my first step in establishing my goal to return your hoard to you. I swear to accomplish this or to go down in flames. Failure is not an option!”

As he stated this, for a moment his helmet glowed in a blue glimmer, before once again resuming its trends of lighting up with his speech. “Now, tell me, Tsavorite. What can you tell me about this dragon that has taken your precious treasure away from you? I’ll be sure to show him why mistreating a sorcerer’s subordinate is a horrific mistake to make.”

[TO BE CONTINUED…]

Author's Note:

Well this chapter barely made my personal deadline I tried to set for myself. I try to not take more than a month to write a chapter with my life being how it is, but the days seemed to have all sorts of things pop up to keep me preoccupied. Rather than go on about that, just know that I put in a lot of effort to get this chapter out to you.

I hope you all enjoy it, because I tried to make sure it had some interesting things to build into for my story such as:
1. Ethan developing a proper justification to develop arachnophobia and hatred for Spider-Man beyond OMD!

2. Zecora being a friendly neighbor, but also showing that she will not stand for having an evil sorcerer's malicious acts pinned on her!

3. A Dragoness who needs someone to drive out that Red Drake that took over her lair that clearly has a smoking problem!

So I hope you all enjoy another chapter of this story. Please like it if you enjoy it so far. Also comment on any questions or concerns you have and edits I need to make note of. I always try to proofread my work before posting, but sometimes I miss a thing or two. That and I always appreciate construction criticism so long as it remains polite.
Thanks for that, and stay tuned for the next chapter!