• Published 8th Sep 2015
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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 Die (Again)

No work or love will flourish out of guilt, fear, or hollowness of heart, just as no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.
Alan Watts

"George," Princess Celestia said calmly before Luna could retort, "May I have a word with you?" It wasn't a request.

I nodded, and followed the Princess into a nearby alcove, where she did something with her horn that dampened all sound in the area. "Now," she said sternly, her usual gentle demeanor vanishing, "Just what do you think you're doing? My sister has had a very stressful night and she does not need anything added to that."

Oh, shit, what do I say, what do I say, there's got to be some sort of reason I can give- "Depression," I blurted, my mind scrambling to keep up with my mouth. Apparantely, that wasn't what she expecting, as a flicker of surprise passed over her face and she didn't response right away. Warming to the topic, I asked, "Luna's a man out of time, right?" When she nodded hesitantly, I continued, "That means she's feeling disconnected right now. She doesn't know anything about this brave new world she's found herself in. The only point of connection she has is you, and while that's a lot, it's not going to be enough. She needs to make new connections, find a sense of purpose and belonging here in order to avoid becoming depressed." I grinned, "Given what she's told me about her past exploits, a prank war seems like the perfect way to do it. As for why me, well... Friendship is weird. You just pick a person you've met and you're like, 'Yup, I like this one," and you just do, 'stuff,' with them. I like Luna, and want to do stuff with her. Do I really need to say anything else?"

I was talking out my ass, but it seemed to be working. Princess Celestia looked like she was trying not to laugh, which was usually a good sign, "Very well, George," she said gently, "You've made your point. However, may I ask a small favor?"

I folded my arms, "Depends on the favor, but generally yes. What is it?"

"Well, Lu-lu (snicker) isn't as strong as she used to be. She should be just the tiniest bit shorter than I am, with a darker coat and a mane that flows in the light of the moon instead of, well," she nodded towards Luna, who was busily studying one of the gold etchings on the wall. "I had to shoulder most of the burden of raising the moon last night and lowering it this morning and she's not happy about it. She always loves a good spar, though."

I caught on to what she was suggesting, "Considering I've been meaning to try out my new abilities in a controlled environment, it would be my pleasure."

And that was how I ended up in the Royal Guard's training courtyard, relishing the feel of a full split that I'd never been able to do in my entire life and breathing in the crisp early morning air as I waited for Luna to find her gear. Apparently Princess Celestia was something of a pack rat, and had a ludicrous system of tunnels carved into the mountain holding just about anything you could care to name, including all of Luna's stuff. Tracking it down was another matter entirely, however, leaving me and my escort (who'd been tailing me since the kitchens) in the classic military limbo known as "hurry up and wait."

"COME ON YOU MUD-BUCKERS, KNEES TO THE CHEST! I COULD MARCH BETTER THAN YOU WHEN I WAS SUCKLING AT MY MOTHER'S TITS!" Ooh, now that sounds interesting. I looked up as a squad of guards trotted into the room, not quite in perfect sync. Huh. I guess drill sergeants are the same in every universe. Their NCO, an earth pony who otherwise looked just like all the other guards, blinked at me in surprise before sending a raised eyebrow at my guard, who tapped his hoof against the ground a few times. Satisfied with whatever that tapping had meant, the guard proceeded to ignore me, forcing the rest to follow his example.


"YES, SERGEANT!" the recruits shouted back, and started pulling bows and arrows off a nearby rack before lining up on a line of stone sunk into the dirt. I sat up and watched incredulously as the recruits anchored their bows on spikes in the ground and used their teeth to pull the string back. Seriously, what the hell? There was no possible way a bow and arrow would ever be practical for pony use excluding unicorns. Given how inaccurate their shots were combined with the slow rate of fire and awkward handling of the weapon the universe seemed to agree with me. Why did these things even exist? Unless you stood on your hind legs and could move while holding one they just weren't practical.

Wait. The Sergeant and my guard exchanged a look, a quick smile, and a roll of their eyes. They knew. They knew bows were useless. This wasn't training, it was a hazing ritual!

After about ten minutes of pathetic accuracy the Sergeant called them off and had them start practicing their kicks against a set of dummies on the far end of the courtyard, something they were obviously much better suited for. I stood up, shook my legs out a bit, and sauntered over to the bow rack. I picked one up, grabbed a quiver to match it, and then took a spot on the firing line. I might as well get some practice in while I waited, and the Archer was definitely in my Atlas. I pictured how the Archer stood, did my best to copy his stance, pulled out an arrow, drew it back, fired, and stuck in the target's leg, missing the circle completely. Right. Watching an avatar on a screen shoot arrows does not a bowman make. I really should know better.

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. My butt was vibrating, and that was a sentence I never thought would apply to me. A quick pat down identified a small pocket just above and behind my caster, and I pulled out my tablet, which expanded without me having to activate it. The screen was blank except for a single box in the middle which read, "Run Archer training session? Y/N." Curious, I pressed the Y, and the box vanished, instead showing me that I should rub the device against my weapon and then toss it onto the ground in front of me.

I complied, tapping the golden egg against my bow and quiver and giving it a light throw. Upon landing it buzzed, sputtered, and projected a blue holographic golem over six feet tall as my mind suddenly filled with information. Ah. So that's how you aim one of these things. That makes so much more sense. Then I glanced at my bow and blinked in surprise. A faint stream of gold was running up and down it's length, twisting the wood and string into an unknown alloy and filling. A moment later I was holding a proper Archer's bow, and I felt a couple of very interesting buttons pop up under my fingers. A quick pat of my quiver confirmed that it had changed as well, and I felt my clothes change to match my new gear as a hood rose up over my head.

I pulled out a simple sharpened arrow, the quiver's apparent default setting, and fed it into my bow, watching in awe as the technology centered and secured the shaft through a simple combination of electromagnets, then drew back and fired. Ah right, this bow drew to the outside, not the inside, which, when combined with the magnets that nocked the arrow for me, allowed me to trade some range and accuracy for raw firing speed. An interesting choice, but one I could get behind.

Thud. I smirked in satisfaction at the solid body shot I'd scored on the golem, and it staggered back to mimic the damage. One of the buttons under my fingers buzzed, prompting me to push it. I did, and it made an arrow whose tip crackled with electricity feed itself into my hand. I grinned manically as I drew, aimed, and fired in under a single second, a slight cackle escaping my lips. This was going to be fun.


By the time Luna got back to the courtyard, I had managed to gather an audience, each new arrow generating a stream of mixed applause and uneasy mummers. No one had tried to stop me yet though, although I might have seen a few ponies approaching me back off nervously after I dumped half a dozen cluster fire-arrows into the golem in under four seconds. I probably wouldn't have messed with me either if I saw that either.

In any case, now that Luna was back, I should finish up, and since I felt like showing off I shot her a grin, then dropped to one knee, pressed and held the buttons for lighting and fire at the same time, and shattered the target with a series of missile arrows, which set themselves on fire and had their own propulsion system, giving them such a powerful kick that I had to brace myself before using one. Luna walked over to me as I stood up and went to fetch my tablet, my bow folding up against my arm as I walked. I didn't seem to be changing back into a cryomancer: why, I had no clue, but I could look into that later. I scooped the tablet up and tucked it away, then turned to look at Luna, who was staring at me her mouth open.

"How is this possible?" She whispered, "Bows art a joke! They always have been. What gives yours such power?"

"Trick arrows," I replied, looking her over, "Being able to hold it, shoot, and move at the same time thanks to standing upright helps, but it's mostly trick arrows. That and this." I showed her how the arrow feed worked and which buttons summoned which types as I looked her over. Luna was now wearing a set of black and silver plate that was a little too big for her as it flowed up her legs and swept over her head, a moon on both her flanks and her chest. Swords hung at both her sides, and I realized with a start that they didn't have handles, just a double edged crescent shaped blade. That, actually makes a lot of sense.

All in all, it was practical, yet stylish: I approved, and I wasn't the only one either. Most of the guards seemed to be staring at her as well, although they were probably doing it for different reasons. One reason in particular actually, going from Luna's blush and heated glare once she noticed they were looking. I don't think I've ever seen anyone get back to work so fast, let alone an entire courtyard's worth of ponies at once.

"We hate voyeurs," she growled as we drifted towards a corner, "That much never changes." She shook herself all over, making a lot less noise than I would have expected, then her horn glowed and both her swords lifted into the air and started to circle her, "But let us not focus on such trivialities. Defend yourself!"

Wait, she couldn't possibly mean-"Luna, this really doesn't sound like a-YIPE!" I began, then was too busy fighting for my life to say anything else.

Want to play a game of fortunately/unfortunately? Tough, we're going to anyway. Unfortunately, Luna was far to enthusiastic to even consider that maybe fighting with real weapons would be a bad idea. Fortunately, I did have some self defense training. Unfortunately, my strength and stamina had always been poor, meaning the style I learned was centered around precise, controlled movement, joint locks, and using an opponent's momentum against him, most of which was completely useless when fighting an alien with sickle blades held in telekinesis. I had no limbs to grab onto, and I wasn't sure any joint lock I knew would work on a pony anyway. I could dodge, and that was about it, unless I unfolded my bow and started trying to seriously fight back, which was not an option. Forget the political backlash, I just didn't want to hurt her.

I managed to stay one step ahead of her for about thirty seconds, carefully sliding back and/or sideways, ducking and leaning out of the way of her attacks, which only got more ferocious as her inability to land a blow started to make her frustrated. "Stand still!" she shouted, the shear volume disorienting me for just a moment, but it was enough, and with a triumphant cry she lunged. It felt like the wind had been knocked out of me, and I slowly looked down at the growing pool of red surrounding the blades embedded in my chest. The last thing I saw before I blacked out was Luna's eyes widening in horror, the scent of fresh blood filling my nostrils.


I have to say, reforming my body after I die is the most bizarre feeling I will ever experience. Nothing else comes close, not even Spike's fire transport (which I'll get to later). First I come to as a ball of blue light, and I can't feel anything at all. The entire world is grayscale as well, and really muffled. Then the tingling starts. It doesn't hurt, but I get the feeling it should, like I'm on the world's most powerful painkillers. My vision grows clearer and the color and sound returns as my head, torso, and limbs take shape. Finally, I drop to the ground, and as much as I would like to say that I coiled into a crouch as I landed, the truth is I went sprawling across the floor and only managed to not hit my skull through shear dumb luck. Then the shock set in.

She'd killed me. She'd killed me! I just couldn't believe it. What the ever flying **** was she thinking!? You don't fight with real weapons unless both people are skilled enough to not get hurt, and definitely without confirming that both participants were willing! I may not be well versed in strategy but even I know killing your own men was a bad idea. Every soldier that dies in training is one less piece of cannon fodder you can throw at the enemy. It's simple math. Oh, when I get my hands on her... I don't even know what I'll do, but it won't be nice.

I groaned as I sat up, letting my eyes wander around the room I'd appeared in. Gold trim, lots of filigree, and the most luxurious bed I had ever seen met my eyes. Wait. Is that Princess Celestia over by that door? She looks kind of wet. And confused. While covered in towels? By God, it's cold in he-HOLY SHIT!

I quickly rolled behind the bed as my face and ears flushed scarlet. Figures. Of course I end up in the Ruler's private quarters buck naked on my first (well, second) day. It was utterly naive of me to even dream of believing this wouldn't happen.

I peaked out from behind my cover to see Celestia open her mouth, then close it again, the look of puzzlement still on her face. I had no idea how many times she's been left speechless in the past, but I had a feeling it wasn't that common.

I pictured a class, it didn't matter which one, and after the glow from my transformation subsided found myself back in the Archer's leathers.

"Sorry about that, your highness," I said a little too cheerfully as I speed-walked toward the main doors, "You just really should have warned me Princess Luna uses live steel. It would have saved us both so much trouble."

I put my hand on the doorknob and started to turn, but paused as the sound of galloping hooves reached my ears through the door. I dodged, but not fast enough.

"SISTER!!!!" screamed Luna as she barged into the room, her eyes moving even more erratically than the rest of her,"WE MUST GO TO THE MEDICAL WING AT ONCE! GEORGE IS-" She cut herself off in a choked squeak as she spotted me, flying through the air from where the doors had slammed into me, and just starting to get mad over, oh, I don't know, her stabbing me through the heart.

I hit the wall with a crunch of broken plaster and landed hard on my rear, glaring at Princess Luna through the sudden cloud of dust. "Your Highness," I said stiffly as I climbed to my feet, "You have exactly one minute to explain to me what the hell you were thinking! If I hadn't been an Immortal you'd already have an diplomatic incident on your hands! Hooves. Whatever!" I may not be a politician, but even I know that killing an ambassador is generally frowned upon.

Princess Luna gaped at me, her mouth opening and closing soundlessly. Then I found myself flat on my back for the third time is as many minutes as she bowled me over, Sobbing "I'm sorry!" into my chest. I made to push her off of me, because she'd lost whatever small amount of trust I'd been willing to give, but only got about halfway there before I was interrupted.

"Forgive her," Larry stated, his voice deadly serious, "Now."

"...What?" I growled at him, "You do know what she just did right?"

"Of course I know what happened, but if you don't let this go we'll all be dead. I promise I'll explain later, but you need to forgive her NOW, BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!" It was his tone, not his words, that finally got through to me. He sounded panicked, and anything dangerous enough to make a self-proclaimed god freak out was something I wanted to avoid. The problem was, I couldn't just let this go. Luna had killed me, run me through: sure I was fine afterwards, but this went a bit beyond eating the last of the pork out of the stir-fry. I wouldn't feel safe letting her near me, which might negate the point of the apology entirely. I needed proof that it wouldn't happen again.

And, just like that, the answer came to me. "Show me," I muttered, pulling Luna's face out of my chest so her eyes met mine, "Show me you mean it." I placed her horn in the center of my forehead and gave her a meaningful look. I watched as the gears turned inside her head for a few seconds, then her eyes widened, tears still dripping from the edges, and she nodded slightly as her horn began to glow.





I hugged her back, hard. I couldn't help myself. All that pain...

Celestia, meanwhile, had been watching the whole ordeal as she dried herself off, and I crooked one of my fingers, beckoning her to join us. It was flat out impossible that I was fully responsible for this breakdown. I was just the catalyst, amplifying emotions that were already present. Celestia was the one that really needed to comfort her, and she seemed to realize it.

I would have slipped out at this point and let the two have some time to themselves, especially since Princess Celestia was not the slightest bit interested in hugging me, but good God can Luna grip. So, when I met her unspoken request with a helpless look, she rolled her eyes and wrapped her wings around both us. They were warm, and soft, and smelled faintly of grass and soap, in addition to still being slightly damp.

Slowly, Luna's sobs subsided, and I glanced down to find her fast asleep, then up to Princess Celestia, "Explain," she said simply as Luna lifted off of me in a faint golden glow. It wasn't a request.

I told her everything as I followed her to Luna's bedchambers, finishing just as we reached the door. Celestia was looking at me with no small amount of alarm. "That... was not what I was expecting at all," she said finally, "You are the injured party here, not my sister. When I first met you, and heard of your bravery in facing Nightmare Moon, I thought you must be a great warrior."

"Your Highness," I said slowly, "For all intents and proposes, and despite whatever power I may have stumbled into, I am a civilian. I've never had to kill anything, not even for my own consumption, or seen anyone die. Yesterday was my first taste of real combat, and I apologize if I ever appeared to be something I wasn't."

Princess Celestia regarded me thoughtfully as Luna floated into her room and was tucked into bed. "A fair point. I should not have assumed your skill without seeing it in person. I apologize for that as well. As compensation for your injuries, please allow my physicians to make sure no permanent damage was sustained."

I nodded in acceptance, "Thank you, your highness. By the way," I continued, "Once I've been checked over could you please point me in the direction of the Palace library? I am completely ignorant of this world and everything in it, and I think we've had enough trouble for one day. It's not even noon!"

That got a smile out of her, and I breathed a mental sigh of relief. That could have gone so much worse.

Author's Note:

I don't think I've ever talked about why I like Skyforge lore so much. It really boils down to one thing: the concept of immortality bridges all the gaps between MMO gameplay and storytelling.

Take WoW. Why send heroes when you could send an army? Why are resurrection spells common for players yet any main character who dies stays dead? Why do PCs get special treatment despite supposedly being normal, if highly skilled warriors? How could all these sapient species coexist on the same world without one wiping out the rest? These are all hand-waved as part of the game design, and we players just don't look that closely.

Now take Skyforge. The Immortals are the army: they are Aelion's shock troops, and only step in when local forces can't handle it. All PCs and some NPCs are immortal, and it's something they do naturally: no resurrection spells that are suspiciously absent from the story. In fact, one of the plot points is a jail break where killing the person you're trying to free is a viable strategy. And finally, Immortals get worshiped and have cults devoted to them. When a legendary figure many times older than you are answers your prayers and comes to save your sorry ass of course you're going to treat them with respect. Even then, people are usually hostile until you point out your immortality because it's not obvious unless you've earned your Nimbus (the halo/laurel wreath hybrid that signifies your entry into mid-late game content). And finally, the non human species are aliens. We didn't have to coexist with them before concepts like "interspecies alliance" existed because they didn't evolve on Aelion: they came from another world, multiple other worlds where they were the dominant species. There was no competition.

Skyforge managed to take game elements that, if introduced into most worlds, would destroy any sense of tension or just flat out didn't make sense and integrate them seamlessly (the resurrection in particular). That is a feat worthy of praise, even if some of the voice acting and dialogue makes me want to beat my head against the wall.