• Published 8th Sep 2015
  • 3,963 Views, 44 Comments

The Equine and the Immortal - Architect Ironturtle

After being forced into a deal with a creature of questionable motives and species, George Someone finds himself in an abandoned palace surrounded by an unfamiliar forest. He quickly dies, then comes back to life. Expect a lot of both.

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In Which I Encounter the Palace (Or it Encounters Me)

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
Philip K. Dick

I couldn't believe what I was seeing, and given just how much my worldview had changed in the past few hours, that was really saying something. Canterlot was built into the side of a mountain: no, that was giving the architects too much credit. Canterlot was glued to the side of a mountain and looked like it could fall off at any moment. I mean seriously, one well placed demolition charge could bring the entire city down, and I can't have been the only person who's thought of that. Then again, they might not have any explosive powerful enough to do the job since the most advanced piece of tech I've seen so far was the steam engine pulling into a train station. No plastic, no electronics, no fancy machines, just wood, cloth, stone, and metal. They had fireworks, sure, but mere black powder probably wouldn't do the job.

I had to admit, though, built upon the sand (or the air, rather) or not, the city was pretty impressive by pre-industrial age standards. First of all, it was clean. I couldn't spot any dirt or trash anywhere, and considering that even the small town I lived in had at least some stray paper floating around, such tidiness was mind boggling. Second, whoever the city planner was deserves a medal: every single building was both functional and aesthetically pleasing without any of the stylistic clashes I would have expected. Finally, it looked happy. Most human cities have a certain grim apathy to them, an atmosphere Canterlot lacked. All in all, a nice, if somewhat small and awkwardly placed, capital.

Then the palace came into focus, and I sucked in a breath. A full platoon of guards had come out to meet us, the sun glinting off their golden armor and their spear tips flashing in the light. I sincerely hoped that these guys were just for show and the real security was safely out of sight, because if they weren't, well...

I stepped off the chariot as we came in for a landing, and almost instantly fell over. Flying and my sense of balance had never agreed with each other, and it looked like that wasn't going to change anytime soon. While I was busy making a fool of myself and providing a spectacle for the palace staff, the Princesses spoke with one of the guards and had him escort me to my new lodgings on the upper northern side of the palace. I'll admit I didn't get the best look at the inside of the palace due to my flagging energy, but I could tell it was rich, tasteful, and I was pretty sure I walked past an extremely confused griffon right outside my room.

I thanked the guard for providing directions, noted but ignored him taking the post outside my door, and turned to inspect the room itself. A tall ceiling, even by human standards, meant it must have been downright cavernous for a pony, with a couch along the wall below the windows and a big bed right in the middle of the floor. I also saw a small door to my left that led to a private bathroom, which raised my appraisement of the ponies's tech level as indoor plumbing was a recent invention for us.

I sat on the bed and thought. Let's see, sleep or shower. Shower or sleep. I'm super dirty, but this bed feels so warm and soft and fluffy and SNORK-GURGLE-PORK-CHOP-SCHNOOOOOOOOREEEE...


I woke up early. Like, super early, the sun wasn't even up yet. I suppose that's what happens when you go to bed at around five in the afternoon instead of waiting for a more reasonable hour. As I stood, stretched, and came to terms with the fact that yesterday's events were not some sort of bizarre hallucination, Given I noticed that for the first time in years my back wasn't sore when I woke up. Huh. Score one for pony beds. My Atlas must have reset itself while I was sleeping as well, because I was back in my oil stained work uniform with the crystal ice shooter nowhere in sight. I sniffed myself and wrinkled my nose, then made a beeline for the bathroom.

As I patted my pockets down to pull out my wallet, keys, and flip-phone (I couldn't afford a smart phone and thought they were major time wasters anyway) I noticed my shirt pocket was a lot fuller than it should be. Namely, that it was holding anything at all since I never actually use that pocket. I undid the button holding it closed and pulled out... what the hell it this thing? It was gold, cigar shaped, about six inches long (which made me wonder how it had fit in their in the first place), and had a big button on the side, which I pressed. In an instant, it had expanded, turning into a ten-by-twelve tablet with a transparent blue display. In the middle of the screen was a box with the words, Missions complete: save the princess, first contact, friendly visit, sleeping arrangements. Place thumb here to receive reward.

Oh yeah, I remember this thing now. It doesn't have a name, but every Immortal's got one: it's how they manage their orders and inventory, complete quests, interact with their Pantheon (basically a guild), stuff like that. It even allows the inexperienced immortals to upgrade their Atlas more easily, something I definitely qualified for. I place my thumb on the oval and felt a surge of power, the Atlas in my mind's eye filling in a couple of nodes. It would take many more sparks (the Atlas currency) to actually unlock anything useful, but as long as new quests or missions or whatever I wanted to call them made themselves available, I could make steady progress.

A surge of itching across my scalp reminded me I still needed to bathe, so I set the tablet (as good a name as any) aside, stripped the rest of my clothes off in record time, glanced in the mirror and-HOLY SHIT! Since when did I have abbs!? I stopped and stared, first in disbelief, then wry amusement. I briefly considered resisting the urge to flex, then realized that was stupid and struck a couple of classic poses. I wasn't ripped, nothing so extreme, but I was definitely in the best shape of my life, especially considering that I'd always been on the small and scrawny side. So this is what Larry meant. I could get used to this.

My obligatory ego-stroking out of the way, I noted the towels hanging on a nearby rack and stepped into the tub. Round handles. The bathtub-shower had round handles, and a shower-head high enough above the ground that I could stand under it comfortably. For a species that had so little knowledge about humans that they had to ask what I was, their tech sure seemed convenient for us. Then again, this is the ambassadors wing: if I actually did see a griffon last night they could just be catering to other species. I turned the water on, and realized to my utter shock that it was the perfect temperature right out of the tap. If this was what magic could do I wanted to learn everything about it. Everything.

Anyway, after getting myself thoroughly wet, I turned around to look for the soap, and saw... my favorite brands of soap, shampoo, and deodorant standing on a nearby shelf. Sticking my head out of the shower in confusion, I spotted a wisp of gray smoke making a hasty exit through the window.


That was equal parts sweet, impressive, and creepy, and I had no idea know which emotion to run with. With no obvious answer making itself known, I put it out of my mind and cleaned myself up, ran a brush through my hair in lieu of a comb, then switched back to the cryomancer suit since my clothes were still dirty. After folding them up and placing them on the bed to be dealt with 'later,' my stomach voiced its displeasure at sleeping for twelve hours straight. I turned and headed towards the door to get some food, only to pause as I heard the crunch of paper under my shoe.

I reached down and picked up a letter, made from parchment and sealed with what must have the Equestrian royal crest in red wax. I opened it up and removed a single piece of paper that said... nothing. It was complete gibberish. Well, not totally, it was a rhythmic pattern of symbols I could tell was a written language, but I didn't have the slightest idea what it said. I blinked at it a few times, then began to fold it up so I could ask someone what it meant when a stray glance regained my full attention. The ink was swirling on the page, changing from its previous illegible script to modern English, and read, Come to the main meeting hall on the third floor at 8 A.M. tomorrow morning. Your guard will show you way. Princess Celestia Since the message didn't match the signature I guessed the Princess must have a scribe around here somewhere. It would make sense, after all.

"Oh, Larry," I sing-songed, into the empty room, "Do you by any chance know why I'm suddenly able to read the local language?"

"Because I gave a you an omniversal translator," he replied, sounding somewhat miffed by the question, "What, did you really think the ponies here spoke English? By the way, you're welcome for the bathroom stuff."

My growing anger fizzled out, "Oh, right, thanks. Just let me know the next time you want to do something like this, ok? I really don't like it when people mess with my head, both metaphorically and literally."

"Good to know," he told me, "by the way, I'm pretty sure someone's listening in on us. It's not like we have anything to hide, but you should probably know just in case."

"Honestly, I should have guessed. Thanks for the heads up."


He winked out.

I sighed ruefully as I opened the door to my room and stepped into the hallway, carefully closing it behind me. I made it precisely two steps before I realized I had no idea where the kitchen was, and turned around to ask the guard for directions. The pegasus, (must be a new guy, when I went to bed it was a unicorn) while not exactly friendly, was at least cordial and took the lead, guiding me through the almost empty palace. A glance at a ornate clock we passed told me why: it was 4:45 A.M. and the morning shift hadn't come in yet. Only the bakers would be up this early, them and people with a wonked out sleep cycle.

Wait. I stopped and sniffed the air curiously. Is that bacon? Bacon!

I jogged past my guard, forcing him to gallop to keep up as I followed my nose into a spacious room lined with stoves and freezers and lit with what were probably magical lanterns. The fatty, salty, heavenly aroma was far stronger here as it was coming from a griddle that was about as wide as I was tall (which is 5'6", last time I checked) and being tended by a thestral. At least, I assumed he was a thestral, since he had bat wings instead of feathers and his fur was a deep indigo that would blend in perfectly on most nights, but the real sign was when he turned around and I got a good look at his cat's-pupil yellow eyes.

"Ah, you must be George," he said in a smooth British accent, that strongly reminded me of a Jame's bond villain, "My name is Candle Light, the night chef, and it's always a pleasure to meet somepony new. Ossy Dee was just telling me about you." He nodded towards a creamy pegasus in a maid's uniform who was moping the corner next to a busted stove as she blushed, squeaked, and tried to make herself as small as possible.

"Don't mind her," he said with a chuckle, "She's like that around everypony she doesn't know. Please, have a seat."

He gestured to a green cushion next to a nice, if plain wooden table/counter, and I sat, noting that this area actually seemed properly designed for pony use. The counters were only two feet off the ground, allowing an adult pony's head to clear them easily, although they still had to stand on their hind legs if they wanted to prod something with a hoof. Interesting.

"Really?" I asked, "What was she saying about me?"

Candle glanced at Ossy, and when it was clear she wasn't going to do anything other than mop at a furious pace and then run out the door like something was going to eat her, said, "Just a few rumors, nothing more and nothing that doesn't sound ridiculous to anypony with even a lick of common sense. I mean, honestly, would the Princess-es allow a Nightmare spirit given physical form to sleep under their roof as an honored guest?" He snorted, "Not likely."

I frowned as I realized just what sort of stories have been spreading about me while I was in la-la land, but before I could think of anything to say, Candle continued, "Don't worry, it's just a bit of gossip. Once ponies get to know the real you the more outlandish tales will disappear on their own. It's happened before, and it will happen again." He shook himself, "Now, if I can't tell when somepony's hungry, I don't deserve my degree. What'll it be, sir? When I say we've got everything, it isn't an exaggeration."

"Um," I pointed at the griddle, "That smells really good. Also, maybe some fruit?"

"Ah, a meat eater huh?" He grinned, giving a grinned look at his fangs as he spoke, "We don't get enough of those in here these days. Just give me a moment."

I tried to relax as he bustled around the kitchen, but found myself failing. Honestly, the idea of being waited on like this was making me nervous. Restaurants were fine, but I found the concept of personal servants distinctly uncomfortable. Sure, they were necessary for some really big houses, but it still put me on edge.

"Here you go sir," Candle said, sliding a plate with some bacon strips and apple and orange slices in front of me, "Enjoy." I thanked him as he placed another plate at the far end of the table and sat down with one of his own. I noticed both of the plates that weren't mine had a side of hay in addition to the meat, and idly wondered just how he'd known that I couldn't digest cellulose.

I shrugged mentally as I picked up a slice of bacon and bit into it, savoring the flavor that I hadn't been able to afford for quite some time. Salted meat was fine in my book, at least the simpler kinds. It was only when you started treating it like a Twinkie that I ran into any problems, a fact I was very grateful for. I mean really, what kind of life doesn't have bacon in it? A sad one, that's what.

Anyway, once I remembered my manners I quickly passed a compliment to Candle for cooking it just right, and he shrugged it off as just doing his job before we tucked in in earnest. I guess it made sense that the chef eats in advance of everyone else. This way he wouldn't be hungry during the rush hour.

As I tossed a slice of apple in my mouth my eyes drifted over to the empty place, and I asked, "Um, excuse me, are we expecting someone?"

Candle waited until he'd swallowed before answering, but before he could say anything the door to the kitchen banged open with a mighty whump and two mares tumbled in to the room, one mercilessly beating the other over the head with a... pillow?

"Surrender, fiend!" bellowed Princess Luna (now that she wasn't moving around as much I recognized her easily), "If thou turnest thyself in we promise the court will be lenient!"

"Never!" shouted back her opponent, a black thestral in a maid's uniform, "We shall fight to the last mare!"

"Then meet thy fate!" shouted Luna, her voice rattling the pans hanging on the walls. He horn glowed and sparked and suddenly she was holding a mountain of pillows, one she quickly buried the mare under to the laughter of everyone in the room, including my own. I always love a good helping of ham.

Luna must not have realized she had an audience, since she looked up in surprise, then blushed heavily and scraped her hoof against the ground, the pillows disappearing as her horn winked out. The maid, noticing the mood shift, grabbed the original pillows, bowed to the princess, and left the room in a hurry. Luna, meanwhile, seated herself at they empty place with a contented oof.

"Ah, good Candle," she said happily as she carefully eyed her plate,"We see thou art settling in well. Are the accommodations to your liking?" She lifted a piece of bacon in her magic and bit into with glee, before freezing and shooting me a nervous look. I could guess what she was thinking, and didn't response, merely lifting my last strip up as I looked at her and slowly biting into it. She got the hint that I didn't care in the slightest and relaxed.

"Of course, Princess Luna," Candle said politely, "You know I've always wanted a kitchen of my own. How could I not be satisfied now that I have one?"

"Well," Luna mused around an orange peel, "The position of night chef is quite new..."

Candle waved her off with a chuckle, saying, "That's not a problem, your highness. I'm happy to serve."

Silence fell for a brief moment, before I said, "I take it you're settling in pretty well, Princess? You seemed to be enjoying yourself earlier."

Luna blushed again (seriously, how does that go through her fur?) as she mumbled, "Mostly. 'Tis, disturbing, realizing just how much the world has changed while thou werest away. We feel we will have much to do in the future to reacquaint ourselves with our subjects."

"Ah, yes, I see," I said, "A thousand years is a very long time to be absent, especially for us fleshlings." Time correction in three, two, one-

Luna sighed, "That it is," she said morosely, poking at her food with a hoof. I blinked and leaned back. She was supposed to correct me on how long she'd been away, not confirm it. Just what the hell had happened back then? However, given Luna's expression I had a feeling that pushing her on this wouldn't get me anywhere at the moment, and changed the subject.

"Say, Princess," I asked gamely, causing her to look up in perplexion, "Now, how do I put this? Of all the new things you've seen since you got back, which one was your favorite?"

She perked up immediately. "The train is most interesting," she said happily, "Using steam to power a machine, such a concept. If we'd had those when Equestria was founded it wouldn't have taken anywhere near as long to travel from city to city! Chariot rides can be such a bore. Why, one time Tia started conjuring a hoard of dragons just to see if she could get the pilots to react!" Luna winced as she laughed, "That got her an extremely irate formal report later, but," she dropped her voice to a stage whisper, "It was completely worth it."

With that, and a bit of prompting on my part, Luna launched into a series of tales of her and Princess Celestia's exploits over the years, leaving all three of us in gales of laughter. Who knew the Princesses would be such practical jokers? Hmm. Maybe that's the best way to help Luna adjust. I knew it wasn't really my responsibility, but watching her spin tales and goof around was way too entertaining for me to care. I wanted to see more of it, and with that in mind, I began forming a plan. Luna would never know what hit her.

All too soon the food was gone, and I grabbed the plates and stuck them in the sink for washing, which Candle said could wait for the day shift. He bid us good night as we left, stating that he would stay up until the day shift arrived. When I asked Luna what that was about, she told me that, apparently, both she and thestrals were nocturnal. Good to know, I guess.

"Well, this has been a most pleasing meeting, Sir George, " Luna said as I smirked at my "title," "We must be off. 'Tis time to lower the moon, and we believe our sister would be most happy that we can join her once again."

I pounced on the opportunity, "Say, Princess," I began, "would you mind if I tagged along and watched? I've always wanted to see it in person." In truth, I just wanted to find out whether they were lying through their teeth, but if it was true I really would like to see. Disguising it as flattery was just a nice bonus.

She mulled it over for a moment, then nodded her head once, "We don't see why not," she said calmly, "Just don't break our concentration. It has been a while since we last performed our royal duties."

"Lead the way, then, your highness," I said with a bow, and she giggled and turned down a side corridor before going up a flight of steps while I followed silently behind her. We got a few odd looks as we passed various staff, and I noticed once again that no one could look me in the eye. Even Princess Luna and Candle hadn't done it for more than a second. Was I really that intimidating, or was something else going on?

I wasn't given any time to puzzle over the problem, though, as we soon arrived at the top of a tower with single massive balcony to find that Princess Celestia was already waiting for us. As I looked around, taking in the extremely fancy decorations that denoted this place as one of great importance, the Princesses managed to have an entire conversation without saying a word about me and whether I could stay. They must have agreed pretty quickly, since Luna told to stay indoors as she and Celestia marched out into the predawn chill.

The night went absolutely quiet, and I listened to my instincts and sat on the floor in a hurry. As one, their horns began to glow, soon becoming to bright to look at directly as the spread their wings and lifted into the air. Then, slowly, breaking reality and making my jaw fall open inch by inch, the moon dropped below the horizon as the sun climbed into the sky, both clearly under the Princesses's power. They could do it. They really controlled them. Holy shit.

"Sir George?" asked Luna, shaking me out of my daze, "Art thou all right?"

"More or less," I said cautiously, "My entire worldview has been shattered, but other than that I'm just peachy." When the Princesses looked confused at my answer, I explained, "On my world the sun and moon rise and fall all by themselves thanks to the natural rotation of the planet. Not only does no one control them, but the mere thought of it is ludicrous. The idea that someone can here is taking some... getting used to."

Ok, if they weren't laughing at me behind those smiles, I had fishlegs: Luna in particular looked about two hairs away from bursting into laughter, so I crossed my eyes and said, "Error, error, does not compute. Emergency reboot required."

That did it. I grinned in triumph as Luna lost her composure, then said simply, "Gotcha."

She froze, then shot me a slowly growing evil smile, "Art thou suggesting what we think thou art?"

I responded by pulling out my ice shooter and freezing the tiles under her hooves, causing her to squeak as she desperately tried to regain her balance, something she only achieved by taking to the air.

"Thou must realize that this means war, correct?" She said with a mock glare.

"Yep." I replied smugly, "May the best man win. Or should I say mare?"

Her eyes narrowed, "Thou art going to regret challenging us, mongrel. We art simply the best there is."

"We shall see," I shot back, some small part of me wondering where the hell she'd learned to reference Homestuck, if it was on purpose, "We shall see."

Author's Note:

Luna's character here was born from listening to Joshscorcher and Lily Peet complain about how she's portrayed in both the show and the fandom. Hopefully I've managed to avoid those mistakes. If I've screwed up Luna's speech patterns at any point, please let me know.

There's a reason why I put that big disclaimer about not being a part of a larger universe on the front this story. I was tired of writing bandwagon stories and wanted to do something new. I also wanted this story to succeed or fail on its own merits.

Like them or hate them, you must admit that writing in a multiple story universe like the Displaced will get you a ton of extra publicity. That's why Displaced can make the feature box even if they're poor tales: they have a large fanbase that's been built up by the greatest authors in the group, one they don't always deserve.

It's the same reason the first crossover between a really popular franchise and mlp will get so much attention regardless of its actual quality. They're building off our love for both canon universes, and don't always have to bring something new to the table to get the views to roll in. I can name several stories that fit into this category off the top of my head, though I won't put them here.

If this story succeeds, I want it to succeed because it is good in and of itself, not because I'm riding on the coat tails of half a dozen better authors. In fact, if I'd picked a more popular crossover to do, this story might have already hit the feature box.

As for why I didn't send a character from the game itself? I love the world, I love the concepts introduced, and I love the ways I can play off of them, but there are only a few characters that have any kind of personality: of those few, only one of them is consistently interesting, and even he is kind of one note (Flavius the scatterbrained scientist). That means I've got an awesome world to work with, but no characters from it worth using. Therefore, I have to make my own.