• Published 30th Aug 2015
  • 1,109 Views, 59 Comments

Do Not Go Gentle - ShinigamiDad

Death's Harbinger needs Luna and Twilight's help to solve a centuries-old mystery

  • ...

Is Everypony Ready?

Twilight Sparkle burst through through the gap in the air caused by Celestia’s summoning spell, wings caught in mid-beat, and skidded across the smooth floor into a large cushion.

Luna rocked back in alarm, and levitated the cushion off the startled purple alicorn.

Twilight struggled to her feet, shaking her mane from her eyes, and exclaimed “What was that?! Did you teleport me here, Princess?” She glanced up at Luna, who shook her head.

“No--it was my sister. Our need is great, and we did not want to wait for you to arrive by more conventional means.” She rose to her full height and moved past Twilight, toward Celestia.

Twilight furrowed her brow and turned to face her mentor, but her intended words of greeting died on her lips. Her eyes widened and her mouth went dry. She staggered backwards a step and pointed at Reaper.

She shook violently for a moment, and laid her ears flat along the sides of her head: “Wha- what is that?!”

Celestia took a deep breath and stepped forward toward her terrified protégé, sympathy showing on her face.

“Princess Twilight, allow me to introduce Reaper. He is the reason we have called you here.”

Twilight’s eyes darted frantically left and right as she sought an escape route. A roaring filled her ears, and a dark veil seemed to descend before her eyes. She wobbled and fell sideways.

Luna rushed forward and stopped Twilight’s descent with her magic: “I believe poor Twilight may have misinterpreted your words, sister!”

Reaper shrugged and agreed: “Kind of made it sound like you brought her here as a sacrifice! I hope she stiffens up a bit once she comes to, again, or this isn’t going to work.”

Celestia brushed Twilight’s mane from her eyes, and slipped a golden-shod hoof under the stunned pony’s chin.

“Twilight, it’s fine! Nopony’s going to hurt you. Wake up--come back to us, please!”

Luna filled a chased silver goblet with pale, strong cider and pressed it lightly against Twilight’s lips.

Twilight sputtered and sipped; her eyes fluttered open, though they struggled to focus. She took a long draught of the cider, and found her legs, pushing back against Luna’s restraining field.

“I can stand, Princess Luna, thank you!” She squeezed her eyes tightly shut and shook her head.

She turned to Celestia: “I don’t understand! “Reaper?” What is that...thing?” She caught sight of the looming cloaked form, and shrank back against Luna.

Reaper cleared his throat: “I am the harbinger and agent of death. I take the spirits of ponies beyond this world at the end of their time here. I mean you no harm, though I completely understand that you’re finding it very hard to believe that. I almost never encounter the living for just this reason.”

Twilight nodded weakly. She licked her lips and spoke unsteadily: “I believe you--or I want to believe you, since the Princesses say it’s OK. But...but...why am I here?”

Luna stepped away from Twilight, circled back beside her sister, and replied: “Reaper and I must journey beyond this waking world, into the realms of long-past dreams, and dying memories. We need your help to do this, Twilight.”

Twilight’s breathing became shallow and rapid, making her voice thin and high-pitched: “Me?! How can I help? What can I do that Luna can’t?” She began to tremble again, but kept her eyes firmly focused on Reaper.

“You can stay with them as they travel, disembodied, into Luna’s dreams, and into Reaper’s memories,” Celestia explained. “They are looking for somepony or something that’s been killing ponies for hundreds of years!”

“Killing ponies?!” Twilight gasped. “That’s awful! What will I do?”

Reaper moved forward, closing the distance between himself and Twilight to just a few feet.

“You’re going to take notes as we pass in and out of these dreams. Luna will be asleep, at least asleep as far you ponies experience it, while I drift in and out of a sort of trance. I don’t sleep in any sort of sense you’d understand.”

“N- notes?” stammered Twilight, shying away slowly, trying to reopen the gap between her and Reaper.

“Yes,” he replied, “notes. I will pass in and out of this plane, and as I do so I will pass on the images and impressions we uncover. You will need to record these impressions so we can examine them for patterns after we return.”

Twilight tipped her head uncertainly.

“Pass on the images?” she repeated, frowning. “Like, you’ll tell me things and I’ll write them down?”

Reaper ground his teeth for a moment before answering: “Not exactly. I will speak a word or two as I make contact with this reality again, but that will merely be to catch your attention and ready you to receive my, um, data.”

“Data?” Twilight responded uneasily. “What does that mean?”

Reaper rubbed his muzzle, and sighed. “Let me show you…”

He stepped forward swiftly, closing the final few feet between himself and the young Princess before she could react, and touched his horn to hers. Their eyes locked together--deep brown and violet--widening until he gazed not merely into, but through her eyes, through her flesh, through the seething, vibrating molecules that made up her living frame, beyond her life, to the end of another’s.

She was overcome by the scent of strawberries, cloying and confusing, then the world opened beneath her hooves--a vast, bottomless chasm, filled not just with darkness, but an actual negation of light, blotting out even Celestia’s radiance. Twilight’s breathing stopped entirely, and the room fell utterly silent, as though she was in the vacuum of space. A thin trickle of urine ran down the back of her left leg, spattering the floor around her hind hooves.

Twilight retched violently, and staggered backwards, tears streaming from her sightless eyes, pawing furiously at the empty air, fighting to regain her life, to tear herself away from the yawning gulf that had consumed Dew Drop.

Reaper looked down at the floor where Twilight had stood, and cocked an eyebrow at the shimmering puddle that remained.

He turned to Celestia: “I don’t know Princess--if she really is the best you can find, I’m afraid you’re going to have to do the job yourself, no matter how much it pains you.”

Celestia frowned and chewed her lip. “You may be right. This just may be too much for her!”

Twilight spoke, voice cracking, cheeks flushed with embarrassment: “No, wait! I was able to absorb and keep your power, Princess, and Luna’s and Cadance’s too, no matter how much it hurt! And I remember the moment I became an alicorn--it seemed to last an eternity! I felt as though all my skin and flesh had been stripped away, and I was alone in an empty universe. I was terrified! But I made it through those tests. I’ve never faced a test I couldn’t pass!”

She wobbled uncertainly toward the low table where Luna had placed the cider.

“Who was that?” she asked Reaper as she refilled the goblet. “Who did I feel or sense or whatever that was?”

“That was Dew Drop,” he replied, “a young earth pony, just a bit older than you, who met her end last night--killed by an unknown assailant of apparently great power.”

“Do you know why?”

“No. Her essence was eliminated, destroyed, absorbed--something. If I knew her fate, I might be able to suss out a motive. But whatever the reason, it was done quickly and almost without a trace. And if I’m right, and this has been going on intermittently for centuries--it’s not just some random act.”

“You suspect a plan?” Twilight wondered.

“Maybe,” replied Reaper. “Again, we don’t have nearly enough to go on, at this point. Luna and I need to go inside our shared pasts and get that evidence!”

Luna nodded and walked toward Reaper: “How shall we begin?”

He pursed his lips and grunted. “Hmpf. It probably makes the most sense to start with my memories, first--they’re likely to be more linear than yours, and it may give you a chance to feel a bit more at-ease before we journey into your past.”

Luna took a deep breath. “If we must do this, let it be done swiftly! Where shall we recline?” She levitated a pile of cushions and pillows, awaiting Reaper’s response.

He looked about the room, his eyes falling on the shaft of sunlight spilling across the floor.

“I’m guessing we’re going to need several hours of real time to do this, so if we sit here, I’ll be in sunlight for most of the time.”

Luna dropped the pillows where Reaper had indicated, then stood aside uneasily.

Twilight downed the remaining cider in the goblet, and cocked her head quizzically. “What do you mean by “real time?” And why do you need to sit in the sun?”

“I’m not a pony, so I don’t eat, but I’m not a pure, incorporeal spirit either. I absorb energy--sunlight, the background life energy of plants and creatures around me, any source of energy, really. It’s the number one reason Celestia can’t stand to be around me.”

He glanced back over his shoulder at Celestia as he joined Luna, and continued: “If she can feel me absorbing her energy, even just a tiny bit, it causes a visceral reaction.”

Celestia shifted uncomfortably, and responded: “That’s true. But I will be right outside the entryway if you need me, Twilight--just shout!”

“Now, you will be sitting next to me, Twilight,” Reaper said, nodding to a nearby cushion, “but you won’t feel any effect from it. Do be sure not to touch me, though. It’s an old myth that touching me brings death, but given enough contact, you’d become weak, fatigued and sick.”

He pondered for a moment: “I suppose you might eventually die from the contact…”

Twilight whimpered in alarm: “Won’t we have to touch horns again?”

Reaper smiled: “No, Twilight. We’ve made all the contact I need to establish a connection going forward. There’s no need for us to touch again.”

She sighed in relief.

“How about you, Luna?” Reaper said, turning his head from Twilight back to his soon-to-be partner. “You think you can stomach a few weeks (or more) in my presence?”

Luna nodded solemnly. “I know you have little effect on me, and given that my failings for the last thousand years have helped this killer prey on those who should have trusted me…”

Reaper cut her off: “That’s enough of that! You can’t think that way going in--you need a clear head, unclouded by remorse. You’re going to get knocked around enough during this journey without adding to the blows! Now let’s get…”

Twilight interrupted: “Excuse me--weeks? Months? I thought you said “hours!””

Luna smiled. “Not weeks or months to you here in the real world, just in the dreamscape. Time there stretches on far longer than it will here.”

Reaper concurred: “Right, but it will still take a while--several real hours, at least. And even though I won’t touch you physically, I will touch your mind, and that alone will be quite fatiguing.”

Twilight took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “Whatever I can do to help stop anypony else from meeting poor Dew Drop’s end, I will!”

“That makes three of us,” Reaper replied. “So let’s settle in and get this over with.” Reaper untied the cord holding his sword to his hip, and set the sheathed blade to one side. He tucked his legs beneath his body, and sank to the floor next to Luna, as Twilight rubbed a towel across her backside, and arranged her cushions and the small, low table containing parchment and a quill.

Taking advantage of Twilight’s distraction, Luna leaned in close to Reaper and asked quietly, “will Twilight really be unharmed by this? She will likely see terrible things!”

Reaper nodded: “We just have to hope she’s as strong as she believes herself to be. We can both help shield her a bit, but…” He shrugged.

Luna nodded silently, and released a thin, silvery tendril from her horn. It touched Reaper’s forehead, and his eyes slowly closed.