• Published 9th Jun 2012
  • 1,158 Views, 5 Comments

Seeking Secrets - Shumiry

A human travels to Equestria to find peace, but an ancient evil has other plans for this creature...

  • ...

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

"Even the most virtuous of souls will have a weakness. Find that weakness, and the soul is yours. To control, to banish, even to destroy." -the Necroequicon

The trip to Canterlot was slow going. Being denied the conventional methods of train, pegasus or taxi carriage, his only choice was to walk. Though the questions burned in his mind, it was impossible not to revel in the beauty of Equestria.

The scents of the day were almost suffocating at times, their intensity threatening to overwhelm him. Dirt, grass, trees, flowers of all kinds, he'd sit in some hidey-hole or tree, and struggle to discern each smell, oftentimes giving up and simply basking in the glory of it all. Birdsong assaulted his ears, and he thought at times he could hear all the fowl of the mountains, as if distance had no effect on sound.

Food was no issue on this sojourn. He had found that the foothills through which he traveled contained an abundance of nuts, roots, and edible plants he had learned to recognize when he'd borrowed Super Naturals from the library. He also stocked his sack with some herbs useful for making potions against a handful of common poisons and venoms, in case his nanobots couldn't analyze and combat them. Lastly, he'd found a specimen of a rare plant that could be chewed to give a burst of energy and increased alertness, prized among professional athletes, hard workers, and scholars studying for exams.

The night, however, had quickly become his favorite time of each day. Not only because it was the only time he could travel, but the subdued nature of the night was less of an affront to his senses. He found he could breathe easier, see farther, and hear better. Plus, the night sky was gorgeous! It had been... why, he didn't think he'd ever seen so many stars in the sky! Looking up at it, he was sometimes reminded of the Shift, specifically the beginning, when the splotch had materialized. If he had known then how similar the two were, perhaps he would have taken some comfort in seeing that blob of sky appear.

Thinking of the Shift, however, always brought back the questions. Which brought with them the pit in his stomach. He didn't have a real reason to feel this way, not anything he could put into words. Yet it drove him on nonetheless. This yearning, this need to know.

“Why am I so afraid?” he'd asked himself one day while resting. Unable to focus on reading Teleportation: From Here to There with Nary a Care!, he'd begun contemplating his unease. Eventually he decided that it was because he didn't know. He didn't understand what the crash entailed, and what adverse effects his Shift to this dimension may have. He needed to be sure, and if anyplace would have the information he was seeking, it would be the Canterlot Archives.

It took him three nights to travel to the base of Canterlot, bringing his grand total to nine days spent in Equestria. During this time he had been able to get a grasp on the basics of teleportation and telekinesis, though his ability to perform the former was virtually nonexistent, and a very detailed understanding of a basic rune for protection against adverse spells. With all the food he'd been able to scavenge, and the fact that he spent most of the daytime resting or reading, his nanobot systems were fully operational again, giving him access to increased hearing, night vision, both everyday and combat HUDs, maximized regenerative capabilities, and the complete absence of the need to eliminate waste from his body.

Since the sun was about to rise, he took refuge in a promising looking cave, sitting just inside the entrance, so as not to disturb any inhabitants, and pulling out his book on teleporting to see if there was some crucial element he had missed that was making the task so unbelievably difficult. But after a short time he grew frustrated and put the book away, turning instead to look inside the cave. Activating his night vision, he saw that it was no small hole he had wandered into. After a moment's hesitation, he ventured forth. “Nothing gained.” he muttered, as he took his first steps.

It soon became apparent that night vision alone wasn't going to cut it; there simply wasn't enough light in the cave, extra sensitivity or not. With a sigh, he pulled out one of the two strange, rod-shaped fungi he'd collected. He'd hoped to save them for the archives, but it seemed unlikely he'd need both, as, according to Super Naturals, they'd glow for almost twelve hours once cracked. He gave it a twist, and heard a series of small pops. Soon, the cave was bathed in a soft green glow.

With his night vision still active, he had to hold the fungus behind his back lest it blind him, but the combined effect was that the cave appeared to be bright as day. Just greener. As he ventured deeper into the cave system, he kept in mind the strategy of a game he'd loved back in hell, and followed his left wall.

It lead him to a few dead ends, and a few yawning chasms which, in defiance of all he thought he knew about physics, he could not see across, as though the light were being absorbed by some physical shadow. Over the next few hours, he became cognizant of the gradually increasing incline of the cave system. Apparently, he was heading up.

Finally, after about six hours of wandering, he made his way into a large chamber which, upon entering, caused his jaw to nearly drop off his face. Piles, massive piles of gold and gems. A horde of treasure so tremendous that his heart was slamming against his ribcage. He temporarily tried to calculate its value, but quickly abandoned the idea. He'd have to come back and...

A cold dread settled within him as two thoughts struck simultaneously. Either he was standing in the Canterlot Treasury, which he sorely doubted, or this was a dragon's horde. He had to know. Cursing his curiosity with each step, he gingerly bypassed the mounds of wealth, heading towards the back of the room, where it curved to the left. As he got closer, the sense of dread increased, until, just before he rounded the corner, it was so thick he was struggling just to breathe. Fighting back the urge to run, he marshaled his resolve, and stepped around the edge.

Had his nanobots not recycled all his waste, he would've soiled himself.

He'd been wrong. The chamber he just came from was nothing. A trifle. Probably just some little nook that some errant piles of gold had been accidentally swept into. For a few seconds he tried to think of something to compare what he was seeing to, until it finally popped into his head: The Colosseum.

He stood in what would have been the middle row, with rank upon rank of “seating” above and below him. There were piles of gems, just gems, as big as the room he had just exited. But nothing, nothing in the whole, massive, gargantuan amphitheater compared to the thing in the middle. The thing which had begun stirring the moment he had entered. The thing which was, even now, raising its head, and opening one green eye to look at him.

I'm going to die. It wasn't so much a thought as it was something engraved in the very fiber of his being, as if his entire existence had been a journey to this point, and he now understood that his purpose in life was to be consumed by this monstrous dragon. It's scales were blacker than anything he had witnessed before, seeming to absorb any light that hit them. It was more like picking out the place where there was nothing than discerning the location of the beast. It took a long sniff, the pull of air nearly offsetting his balance, seeming to suck the very strength from his blood. At that point, action became impossible, he knew, just, knew, that his only option was to hope for mercy.

Hmmmm,” the dragon rumbled, the sound bouncing off the rock, hitting him from all directions, shaking his bones, “it has been a long, long time since we last saw your kind.” Even through the terror that gripped him, he was struck by the words. It knows what I am! It's seen humans before!

Hmm hmm hmm hmm.” it took him a moment to realize the sound was the dragon chuckling, “Oh yes, we know your kind. There were many before you.” Each time it spoke, the sound robbed him of all ability to think or act, and he spent a few seconds recovering his faculties. Finally, he managed to speak,

“What happened to them?” he squeaked, his voice cracking in fear.

They died.” it stated bluntly, pausing for a second before continuing, “You are frail creatures. You last only a blink, then you are gone...” It paused then, and leaned its head closer, the eye scrutinizing him. The massive lid moved up, and its serpentine orb was revealed in full.

He thought that this might be what it felt like to stand naked before the fury of the unobstructed sun. It felt as if everything was laid bare. His dreams, his goals, every thought and memory he had ever had was known to the dragon. He thought he stood there for a lifetime, being consumed by the draconian gaze, before the lid finally lowered halfway down again, and the massive head pulled away.

Hmm, you are different. You will last. Interesting...” It drew out the last word, pondering. He waited, standing still for seconds, then minutes. An hour had elapsed before the dragon spoke again,

We will aid you in two ways. The first, a gift of knowledge.” He struggled to pay attention past the relief flooding through him. “What you seek, was once sought by a pony. Starswirl, he was called. The second, a gift of protection. A rune you know well, and another you do not.” The head came close again, drawing in a breath as it approached. The dragon's mouth opened slightly as it exhaled, its breath coming out as a thin, wispy trail of the same voidstuff the dragon itself seemed to be made of. When it hit him, no amount of resolve in the world could've stopped him from screaming.

He had gotten a tattoo once, right over his heart, of a caved-in hole. He had liked it, but later on, around the time he was getting his implants, he'd opted to have it removed. It just, hadn't seemed to matter anymore. This felt similar to getting that tattoo, but similar only in the sense of the type of pain, not the magnitude. If the tattoo had been pricking his thumb on a rose thorn, this was having his eyes gouged out with a hot spoon.

It probably only lasted a second or two, but he would forever remember it as a tiny eternity of blinding agony. When it ended, he collapsed in a heap, breathing heavily, the faint taste of iron in the back of his throat. While he lay there, trying to recuperate, the dragon returned to its resting position. After a few moments, he finally felt he had the strength to stand up.

Looking around for his glowgi, he reached the conclusion that, at some point, it had gone out. How long have I been here? he dimly wondered. Looking around, his gaze was drawn to a tunnel he hadn't noticed before, from which emanated the green light of the fungi. Careful not to disturb any of the immeasurable wealth that littered the chamber, he made his way to the light. As he set foot in the mouth of the cave, the dragon spoke,

Take one with you, you will need its light. When you have found what you seek, allow yourself to be discovered.” He wanted to ask what it meant by that, but something told him that his visiting time had come to an end. Instead, he asked something else, a question he'd been pondering since he first laid eyes on the incredible monster,

“How old are you?” He waited a long time, but no answer came. Finally, he moved to continue his exit.

We do not know of a time before we existed.” The silence that followed the statement was deafening. That doesn't tell me much, who remembers before they were born? He bent down and plucked one of the fungi, causing it to go dark, and tucked it into his sack. Turning to get one last look at the Colosseum, he found himself facing a blank stone wall.

Reaching out, he pressed on it, then gave it a sharp knock with his knuckles, but it was solid. With a steadying breath, he turned and headed out of the cave into the night. He appeared to have emerged from a crypt near the palace. Instinctively crouching low, he surveyed his surroundings, but it seemed to be an empty night. He didn't see or hear anypony around him as he made his way out of the cemetery. In fact, he didn't see another soul as he walked right up the front steps to the Archives and slipped inside.

Somehow, as he looked down the curving hallway, he knew where he needed to go. As he took his first steps, the dragon's words echoed in his mind. We do not know of a time before... He stopped in his tracks. No... it couldn't be... But the thought was firmly planted in his mind. Ur-dragon.