• Published 20th Aug 2015
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Pirene's Well: Three Nights in Manehattan - Ether Echoes



A noir tale of anxiety, pain, loss, and hope in Manehattan. Sequel to Through the Well of Pirene.

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The First Night - Part 2

The Reluctant Pilgrim

The golden hour of dusk is always one of the best times to fly, and if there’s one thing in this life that I can’t help but take full and unadulterated pleasure in, it’s the grace of flying under my own power.

The last updraft of day sends me spiraling higher into the sun-kissed clouds, three miles over the gleaming citadel of Equestrian capitalism. Sitting over two rivers and a lot of very valuable property, it’s my favorite town on this side of the divide: Manehattan. People know how to live around here.

I’m high enough now that I get a pretty good look at an air ball game in the stadium floating over the south bank on a cloud of its own, the howl of cheering fans echoing even from here, but I’m not here to catch a game. I tuck my wings in and dive, picking up speed as I plummet past the airborne suburbs where pegasi and griffons and whatever raise their flocks and down, faster and faster, until the air is screaming past my ears and the buildings below charge up to meet me.

Then I snap my wings open and whoop as the air hammers into my sides, whooping where no one can hear as white moisture trails off my tips. Still way too fast, I plummet straight down to street level before the air slows me just enough to plant my hooves on the grass of a great green field, Central Park’s well-kept cousin. An older stallion glances over from his chess game and snorts and ruffles his dusty feathers. “Young’n. Gonna be feelin’ that in the morning.”

“Hell, I’m feeling it now,” I say with a grin, adjusting my jacket and stretching my wings. Flippant or not, the stallion’s right, and I might need them later. I look up at the sky, where a curious green star glimmers faintly on the horizon above a glitzy hotel. “What? Don’t look at me that way. I’ll be fine.”

“What, are you talking to me?” the stallion asks, him and his buddy turning to look.

“Just thinking outloud.” I smirk and take off, trotting off the grass and out to the sidewalk along the main street. Funny pony cars, their cabins long and flat, glide along with the gentle hum of electric engines. The onset of night is making the place more crowded than usual, if that were possible, but I walked anyway. After a long flight, I always want to feel the earth under my hooves, and flying from Ponyville to Manehattan is a heck of a hop.

My wing joints ache quietly, refusing to bounce back quite as well as they had even five years ago.

In a few minutes, I’m surrounded by the glittering edifice of the newest buildings in downtown.

Resisting the urge to hit up the griffon selling artificial meat dogs in the center divider, I pass through a revolving door and into the foyer of a shiny downtown skyscraper, Elusive scrawled across its windows.

“Excuse me, sir?” one of the receptionists calls, her piercing voice singling me out. “Can I help you?” Her eyes suggest she already thinks she knows everything about me, taking in the battered old jacket, the scruffy mane and tail, and the questionably groomed wings.

To be fair, she’s probably not that far off, as I’m often reminded.

“Evenin’,” I say, flashing a wide smile. “I’m here to see Rarity.”

Her brows threaten to climb into her beret. “Rarity? Do you have an appointment, sir?”

“Nope. I’m an old friend, though. She’ll want to see me.”

She flares her nostrils and presses her manicured hooves onto the desk. “I’m afraid no one gets to see Rarity without an appointment, sir.

I pull my jacket back and take out a card of a leaping alicorn, presenting it to her. “Oh? Not even an officer of the Hippocrene Society?”

Her eyes widen, but then narrow suspiciously as she looks me over. “Anyone could have one of those printed and forged.”

“Uh huh. Could I leave a message for her secretary, then?” I ask as I tuck the card away.

The mare hesitates, then nods. She turns towards her computer. “Yes, of course, could I get your–hey!”

Too late for her. I already craned my neck over, saw that Rarity was scheduled for a shoot, and zipped off out the door and then up the wall. Knew I’d need my wings soon.

A balcony fifty stories up provides my entrance, and I scoot past a pair of spangled models with an apologetic grin and gallop down the hall into a studio – just in time for a burly minotaur to plow into me and slam me against the floor with a beefy arm.

“Hey, yo, whoa.” I hold my hooves up. “Take it easy there, champ.”

Before the snorting black bull answers, a voice cuts through the started gaggle of models and photographers. “Excuse me! What is going on here?” Everyone, even the minotaur, turns to look.

Fifteen years and she’s as beautiful as ever, with her glistening alabaster coat and vividly amethyst mane. Really, she hasn’t aged a day, but that’s readily explained by what is probably her most salient and impressive feature: a pair of immaculate white wings held loosely at her sides.

“Rarity! Hey there. You’re looking gr-ack.” I squeak as the minotaur applies pressure.

“...Marcus?” She puts a hoof to her lips. “What in the blazes is going on here?”

I wheeze around the arm. “I thought I’d drop in.”

“Why in the blazes didn’t you call first?” She shoos the security guard off with a bat of her wings and helps me up with a hoof. “Look at you, you’re a state. I can see Leit Motif isn’t taking care of you, because Celestia knows you never have yourself.”

With a rueful grin I fix my jacket and sketch her a teasing bow. “Well, Princess, I do apologize for not presenting myself adequately. As for the calling thing, your phone’s been off literally all day.”

“Oh. Oh, of course. I’ve taken to turning my cell off when I’m on a shoot. I do so detest interruptions when I’m creating, and my family has my secretary’s number in case of emergencies.” She rolls her eyes. “And remember, I’m not officially sanctioned as a Princess of Equestria.” She pauses. “Yet.”

“Constitutions are a hell of a thing, aren’t they?”

She giggles and wraps her wings and hooves around me in a friendly hug. “Oh, Marcus, it is nice to see you again. How is Leit Motif?”

I give her a squeeze in return. “Oh, she’s great. She’s traveling right now, but we’ll be seeing each other again soon.”

“Ah, the longing of a long-distance relationship, how I miss it. Come, let’s talk somewhere less public.” She glides off gracefully.

“And you?” I ask as I join her. “How’s the family?”

“Entirely too splendid to be real.” She sighs wistfully. “Ah, would that dear Talon would fall upon hard times, or sweet Luster would come home in tears from a bully or with something less than perfect grades, that we might have some drama in the household.”

“Hah, hah. You know you love it.”

“I do indeed.” Rarity laughs and steps inside her office, a glass-walled thing with a full view of Manehattan and the ocean beyond. The sun is setting, making mountains of her coffee mug and the many photos of her husband and colt. “And?”

“And what?” I ask, going to plop into one of the elevated cushions near the coffee.

“You and Leit Motif.” She settles languidly into one of her own. "Surely you’ve at least discussed a family by now?”

“Well. I can certainly say it’s crossed my mother’s lips a time or ten. Rarity, I’m barely past thirty; it’s a little early to think about settling down.”

She smiles and flicks her tail. “You will laugh, Marcus, but you are exactly the sort of young stallion to complain that you don’t want a family while secretly hoping you do get one, eventually.”

“Well, eventually isn’t today.” I grin disarmingly, but I don’t think she buys it. Darned perceptive mares, I’m perpetually surrounded by them.

“What of Daphne?” she presses. “It’s been years.”

At that, my grin fades, and I rub my hoof into the cushion. I nod my head out the window. Together, the two of us look out at the green star, unmoved on the horizon.

“Ah,” she says. “Is she all right, though? She seemed so sad, last we met.”

“Whether she is or isn’t, she doesn’t tell me, and Leit Motif won’t tell me one way or another. I dunno, Rarity. As far as I’ve seen, she’s only gotten more melancholy as time’s gone on. They’re together, right now – in the flesh, that is. I’m hoping I can get her and Amy back together sometime.”

“Now there are a pair who need to learn to let go,” Rarity says with a sigh. “I suppose that’s why you’re here, then, isn’t it?”

“Not that I don’t love to catch up with you and the others, but, yeah.” I look out at the star that’s guided me here, wondering where it’s going to take me next. “There’s something going on, Rarity, and I might need your help.”

“Of course,” she says, ruffling her wings eagerly. “How can I help?” Little bit of pegasus in her now, that one.

“Easy there, cowgirl.” I grin. “I don’t need firepower yet, and I certainly don’t want to pull you away from your work and family until I know more. Daphne sent me a vision.”

“Well, don’t keep me waiting. What do you know?”

I settled back, pulling up the memory. “I was in a burnt out house, digging with my hooves. Funny how often I dream as a stallion these days, though with Daphne involved that might not be my fault this time. I found half of a plush dragon, the rest of it cooked. I held it in my legs and found myself somewhere else again, looking down at a scared little filly, her hoof bleeding as she limped away from a shadow sliding down the alley. It was cast by a pony – can’t say if it’s a stallion or a mare in the silhouette, but I could tell it was an earth pony – and around his or her neck was a very familiar looking amulet.”

“You don’t mean…?”

“Yeah. Another alicorn amulet.”

“They’re popping up all over the place these days, aren’t they?” She sighs. “I remember quite well when we thought there was just one of them, and that it was securely locked up in Canterlot. Is it one of the ones we’ve found?”

I shake my head. “Nope. Bronze with a yellow stone. It wasn’t what was causing the shadow, though. I felt like it was something else… maybe a titanspawn.”

“Maybe an actual titan?” She shivers at my shrug. “Stars. Does Celestia know, or Luna, or Twilight? Even Discord, if it’s that serious.”

“We’re getting in touch with them. I hope they’ll be able to pull something together.” I nod, glancing out the window. “For now, I’m here to find that little girl. Daphne made that very clear. If some hulking titanspawn or whatever wants her, and it’s being backed up by someone in the grip of an alicorn amulet, it can’t possibly be a good thing.” I set my jaw. “Besides, I don’t like it when people threaten kids like that.”

Rarity puts her hoof over mine and smiles. “I remember you as a somewhat flippant boy, hiding his feelings under a mask of irreverence.”

“Still do.”

“Yes, but I am glad to have watched you grow into something more. This is the real you.”

“I better have.” I grin ruefully. “I’m not getting any younger.”

“I did. Maybe you have a chance.” She give my hoof a rub. “Now, is there anything I can do to help?”

“Yes, actually.” I pat her hoof and pull back. “Naomi doesn’t have a whole lot of tendrils in the city yet, and the Hippocrene office here won’t be opening for months yet. She’s got her hands – or hooves, depending on the day – pretty damned full with setting things up on the human side of things, not to mention her kids. I’m not sure which is the bigger job, raising a pack or raising a company. You’re pretty plugged in around here, though. Anything you can find on the amulet or the kid would be helpful.”

She beams. “Naturally. Do you know her name? You didn’t describe her.”

“No, unfortunately. I think the chaos rolling off that titanspawn is obscuring Daphne’s senses here.” I turn my hoof and Produce a paper from thin air – or, more accurately, the hidden space I keep my crap in. On it is a pair of fuzzy spheres blended in the middle, like a diagram. “This is her mark. She’s maybe eight to ten, sort of a grey coat and pink mane. Cute kid, unicorn.”

“What is it?” She takes it in her magic, floating it for a closer look. “Incidentally, when did you take the opportunity to learn goblin magic?”

“Learned it from zebras, actually; there were a few on the crew when we set off to explore the other worlds. And Naomi’s kid Valence thinks it’s a pair of electron clouds bonding, which, hey, I guess he’s an expert on.”

Rarity laughs quietly. “The world changes, and with it our children. Very well. I’ll run this through the police. If she’s not already missing, though, I’m not sure how much help it’ll be. They’ll talk to the school systems, but that could take days.”

“Dunno if I have days.” I shake my head.

“You’ll find her. I have faith. How do you intend to look?”

“A few years gallivanting around the worlds and Mag Mell have given me some skills worth mentioning.” I rise to my feet. “I’m really sorry about having to run so soon.”

“Quite all right, dear. You’ll just have to make up for it later.” She pulls me in for another hug and goes to open the window. “We can have the guest room made up for you, if you’d like? And don’t hesitate to call on me. I’m a fair sight stronger than I used to be.”

“I’d like that, and I won’t,” I say, walking onto the balcony and grinning. “Besides, you were always strong as hell. My jaw still smarts from ten years ago.”

“Have Leit kiss it better, and teach you how to dodge while you’re at it. Now… ” She waves a wing. “Au revoir. You’d best show up, Luster will never forgive you if he misses a chance to hear your stories.”

I toss her a playful salute, flare my wings open, and take off into the dark as the city lights begin to come on all around, lighting my way.

It’s gonna be a long night.

* * *

“You don’t look like you belong around here, Bub,” the goblin says, leaning over me in his monkey suit. Eminently appropriate attire for a gorilla, I’d say.

“Oh, yeah?” I ask. “What sort of people do look like they belong around here?” I bite back a sigh. These games are getting extremely old.

The gorilla-form goblin curls up a lip, showing a hint of yellowed fangs. “Not the kind like you.” He looms huge beneath a purple awning in the Fish Packing district. Where fifteen years ago this street had been lined with brick factories pumping out the pet chow and carnivore-feed of a nation, now it’s largely the abode of artists, goblins, and other foreigners, who’ve turned the decaying factories into equally-distressed housing projects and studios.

“Give it ten or twenty years, the yuppies’ll drive prices sky-high and this’ll be every bit as upscale as Platinum Hill or Trotsville, and then your clientele won’t belong at all. Of course, I won’t belong there either, will I?”

He grunts in confusion. Confusion makes his head hurt, and his head hurting makes him angry, so he tightens his knuckles.

“But, hey, I get you. You want some credentials, to see if I’m the sort of clientele that meets the rigorous high standards of your fine establishment, huh? Can’t walk into a nice club without meeting the dress code, am I right?”

“Yeah?” the gorilla grunts, still internally debating as to whether or not to try bashing my head in if his furrowed brows are any indication.

“Well, how about a magic trick?” I flick my hoof and a pony-made pistol snaps out of the air. It’s got a brace for a shoulder holster, but I’m holding it by the chromed handle in my hoof grip.

The gorilla jerks back so hard he bangs his head on the door and bounces. “E-easy there!”

“So. Do you think I’m the sort of person who belongs here after all?”

He nods vigorously. “I’m real sorry, sir, really. I didn’t realize you was a goblin.”

The poor guy can be forgiven for that mistake. I keep my back end covered for a reason. “Apology accepted,” I Vanish the pistol with another flick. “Now, be a gent and hold the door.”

He does so, and I make sure to produce a small stack of brass bits to ease his headache and tuck them into his vest on the way in – and make sure he doesn’t decide he’d rather go for backup as soon as my back is turned. Goblins respect strength, but they’re quick to turn advantage. Thankfully, they respect a little grease in the gears quite a bit more, and someone who bribes once is likely to bribe again. No idiot who gets far kills a goose that lays golden eggs.

The inside of the bar is smoky, both with the odor of Mag Mell cuisine and the incense-like hookahs that are all the rage there. If I were a city inspector, the owner would be cited so hard his scaly head would spin. Piercework screens evoke the ambiance of Mag Mell’s Sword quarter, albeit not quite as much as the arabesque music played by the languid band in the corner. Goblins both bipedal or not lounge about in divans, cushions, and on chairs around little tables in the cafe with a scattering of pony guests – of course, who can tell how many of the last group are actually what they seem to be.

Remembering Lightning Dust, I couldn’t really blame them if they forgot themselves.

This isn’t my first dance, and so my first move is to get a drink and find a table. There’s a handful of people playing backgammon, chess, and other games in one of the wings, so I sit in until it’s my turn to play. I win a few, I lose a few more, and I’m a few hundred bits poorer.

That’s just phase one, and I’m expecting my wallet to get a lot lighter before I’m done. Again, these games are exhausting, but they get results.

It’s hard not to get impatient, but as in any dance with more than one person, you have to let your other partner have a turn, or else your night’s going to be terribly one-sided.

Phase two begins when a turtle-man with rings sewn into his jacket sits across from me. “Namaste,” he greets me, putting his leathery, blunt hands together. He pronounces it in a native accent, not the hippie yoga way.

I return the gesture to the Ring goblin with my hooves together, repeating his little bow. “Namaste.

Then, we settle down to play.

So, while I was never a chess player as a teen, long nights with Naomi while the facilities in Boston and Ponyville were being built gave me ample opportunity to pick up the basics while she fake complained about her various pregnancies, and the eternal love goblins have for this game beat me into something resembling competency. I’d been casual earlier, but now I was going to give the tortoise whatever I could get.

The pieces had all been carved according to goblin politics, naturally, with different colors depending on whether or not you pick Wand, Ring, Sword, or Cup, and I was pleased to see that it’s a recent set, since the Wand King is none other than a thin, pretty girl with an elegant staff. My queen is Stylus, an older, bird-like woman sitting on a book – we’ve never met, but she kept the damned court running through Nessus’ rein. For knights, we have Marble Stone twice over, looking as grumpy as ever, though the Page – bishop, in human parlance – is still the last one, who Nessus murdered. That’s a vacancy they’ve yet to fill. The rooks are replicas of the airship Fortress, which so boldly fell in battle, while the pawns are all numbered goblins of various sorts.

King Amelia and I go way back, so naturally I’m not going to disappoint her with a poor showing. I play a slow-boiling strategy meant to lure him into a false sense of security and cut him down in the height of his aggression.

“You are quite good at wearing faces,” the tortoise says, moving his Ring Court-themed set with surety in his claws. He doesn’t really have fingers, just suggestions of them, but, then, I’m the guy using a flat surface for a grasping limb.

“I don’t really put on faces. There’s just me.” I tap one of his knights out with one of my pages, a miscalculation if I weren’t playing a longer game.

He obliges by taking it. “Then you are a seeker. A traveler in search of some great mystery.”

“Curious deduction. What leads you to that conclusion?” I ask as I take a sip, considering the board.

“You are worn, honored sir. You look young, but your eyes betray your age. Your jacket has seen more dusty vistas and strange horizons than many greyhairs.”

“Oh, you flatter me,” I scoop up a pawn. He’s penetrating, time to shift tactics. “I’ve been here and there. Who wouldn’t take the chance to travel?”

“Some, but few without a home.”

I wobble my hoof on a knight, then change direction. “Maybe my home moves with me.”

“Perhaps.”

He’s silent for the rest of the match, which is good, because I’m sweating buckets. Pretty sure tortoises don’t sweat, but I think I’m giving him a run. The sound of each of us declaring “check” in turn three times over signals the end of our silence, and then he plants his knight exactly where I knew he would.

End phase two.

“Check, and mate, honored sir.” He closes his hands together again, and once again I mirror him. “A good match.” He reaches forward and, rather than knocking her down, picks King Amelia up and presents her to me, nestled on his two claws. “Here. It is clear that you care for her very deeply.”

I accept her, gently Vanishing her with a flick. “We go back.”

“Then you are the one who sailed beyond the mists of Svartalfheim.” He chuckles at my slight wince. “Worry not. I suspect I am the only one here to have recognized you. There were other brokers of information you might have attracted, but I made my interest clear.”

“I suppose I should be grateful, if you can help me.” I say, leaning back and settling on my forelegs.

“Stars willing. Or, perhaps, star.” He smiles. “No need for bits, honored sir, in return for what I know, if I can help you, I would ask only information in return. I would hear of Alfheim.”

“Ah.” I rub a hoof along my chest thoughtfully. “If that’s the case, I’m going to have to disappoint you. I did sail from Svartalfheim in an airship in the direction Alfheim is supposed to be, but I never found it. The winds and mists turned us aside.”

“But, you did see something.”

I hesitate, considering. I could count the number of people I’ve intimated the full story to on my human fingers. “Before I give you my story, do I have it on your word that you can help me? I seek an amulet, a bronze one with a yellow stone, and a little girl who may be in danger.”

“On the Ring, do I swear.”

I sigh and kick back the rest of my drink, looking up at the pierced metal lamp hanging above us. “I set neither hoof nor foot on it, but I did see the shore. It was white, not in the way a white beach is white, but white in the way the sun shimmers off marble on a clear day. It was like the horizon had lit on fire, and it was almost impossible to look. What I did see, though, was a piece of something enormous. I thought it was a mountain at first, but as we got closer we realized it was a solid block of something a lot like stone, but not. Maybe a composite, or something we have no name for. It towered at least half a mile into the sky, dwarfing everything around it, and on its face were carved angular signs in a language I’ve only seen a few times, all of them on stuff older than ten thousand years. I, and everyone else on board, felt it as much as we saw it, like it pressed the air out from it the same way it bent the land under it, and the sense of loss was so profound there wasn’t a dry eye on board that whole damned ship.

“After that, the gale struck again, and all hands had to fight for our lives to keep from being blasted down to Niefelheim, or, worse, losing our envelope and landing the fast way.”

He takes that in quietly, as languid as the smoke. After a time, he nods. “You know what it was, of course?”

“A piece of the Tower,” I say. “There’s really no doubt. A chunk of the thing that made the Bridle, and ruined the world.”

“It was meant, first, as a beacon of hope. Harmony, even.”

“Now it isn’t,” I say, perhaps a little shorter than I meant. He bows his head to apologize, but I wave a hoof. “No, it’s fine. I understand what you mean – I shouldn’t let what one prick did soil the memory of a whole people. I still find it a bit hard to believe that there was this whole magical society that thrived who knows how many thousands of years ago. The cataclysm burned deep.”

“And yet, honored sir, you are among the privileged few to know how true it is. Are you ready to hear what I have to say?”

I nod.

“I cannot help you locate any girls, but the amulet you seek is known. It was not in Equestria until very recently – in fact, all my best information indicates it was found on your side of Midgard and smuggled out.”

I prick my ears. “By whom?”

“Goblins, of course. They did not know what it is they’d found, for it lay dormant at first, but where it went after they handled it is unknown to me, save that some weeks later it turned up back here. Regrettably, I do not know around whose neck it is, but it is said to be an earth stallion with a yellow, dusty coat.”

“Now, that is good information.”

The tortoise holds up a hand. “There is more. You must be wary, for he is said to be channeling its power in the manner of earth ponies. He surely has vast strength, and it is said that his words are very persuasive to the weak-willed.”

“I’ll watch out. Do you know where I might meet this stallion?”

“Not exactly, honored sir, but you may want to know that he is said to be seeking some unknown artifact here. Perhaps the police know more, for there was a string of high-profile heists of wealthy homes, taking only objects of great antiquity. I can give you the names and locations of people who would be connected with that sort of trade.”

“Thank you. I can make use of that.” I nod. “Is there anything else?”

“Yes.” He leans in. “This is a kind city. A good city. But its shadows have grown teeth. There are a pair of men who have been watching you since we started talking.”

“The tall one and the short one, right?” I say, not looking. I saw them just fine out of the corner of my eye earlier – a skinny little weasel, literally, and his hulking ogre friend, both in bowler hats.

“They are enforcers who work for a criminal lord from Mag Mell, before your King Amelia chased him off. Ferro Quicklime.”

“What a nice name.”

“If you survive the night, return to me tomorrow with what you know. I may be able to provide more aid, in return for a game.”

I grin. “Count on it. Catch you later.” I leave my drink and head away from the table. I make it casual, but Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber are going to follow me no matter what I do. I head out onto the alley I came in and, sure enough, they follow a few minutes later.

They have to have some sort of flying backup to keep me from just spreading my wings and leaving them to wallow on the dirt, but it’s hard to tell. The lights become too dim above a certain height to see clearly if the target isn’t bright enough, and anything could be hiding among the gargoyles and signposts. I start heading for the open street, but a pair of built earth ponies move to talk in front of the alley. Their eyes glance towards me as they move into place. No point in turning back, they’d just box me in tighter.

And now begins Phase Four: dealing with the trash that builds up.

“Hey,” I say as I approach the two. “Got a light?”

One of them, a blunt-nosed sort with a boxing mark, instinctively reaches for his belt, and I spin and crack him on the face with a hoof. He spins, down but not out, while I snap my wings and rise into the air for better maneuvering.

With flicks of my hooves I pull out a harness with a heavy pistol attached and fit my hoof into the trigger lock. “All right, folks. Want to play? Let’s play.”

Really, it’s so nice of them to spare me the trouble of looking for them.

* * * * * * *

Author's Note:

Welcome back, Marcus!

So some might be inclined to ask - why is Marcus one of the main characters in this story?
There's a few reasons, though really in a sense they exist to backfill what my imagination had already decided. I "knew" on some level that this was his story.

If you're worried about the others, there will be appearances put in by Naomi and others. For most of them, their responsibility limits participation. Naomi's a mother and head of an organization. Amelia's the King of the Wand goblins. Daphne's presence is as much felt as seen - and Leit Motif is gallivanting with her, not with him, which is its own barrel of issues.
(And as for Lyra, who knows what the hell she's doing!)

In a way, that's fitting. In the first novel, Marcus was very much a side character, a supporting character - really, as much a foil to Daphne and Leit as anything. He existed to needle them into character growth, while also providing a bit of perspective of his own. This isn't to say he didn't have his own character, even if it was buried under a layer of Xander-ish japery. He didn't feel as comfortable in the experience as Naomi did, but in his own way he was as excited as any of them – and more importantly, he loves Naomi and Amelia like they're his own sisters, and leaving them to twist in the wind would have destroyed him.

Now I get to peel away the mask and show what's going on in his head. Unlike Daphne or Amelia, he is not someone with whom I really identify. His struggles are alien to mine, but, in a way, that makes them valuable for me to write about and experience with you.

This is a Marcus who's been through the mill a bit. He hints at other adventures he's had, all of which have left their mark on him, but he's already starting to feel like he's past his prime – a little arrogant for a thirty-three year old man, but he's a pegasus, too. He's not a kid anymore, and he's starting to feel like it.

This journey, for him, is what Through the Well of Pirene was for Daphne. Time to grow up.

Remember to comment below! See you next time.