• Published 17th Jul 2016
  • 11,435 Views, 177 Comments

Shadows and Watchers - -SBRS

An Abyss Watcher is flung into Equestria after the Ashen One's secret betrayal. Finding someone to hold onto, he discovers new purpose under the guidance of the moon.

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Chapter Six: Garden

The sun had risen quite high in the sky, and a pleasant warmth rolled across my body. Lovely rays of sunlight touched upon my face and cool, emerald grass swayed below my feet like fresh cushions of silk. Before me was a vast array of lush foliage and vibrant flora, wholly encased within tall, silvery walls. Colors sparkled under the bright sun, and I smiled with pleasure.

I decided, within myself, that I quite liked the Royal Gardens. Lily Pad had not lied about their beauty.

And, to add to the beauty, it was a rather quaint day. It cheered me up, to be frank, giddying my emotions.

Fingering a small, burlap sack within my hands, its skin rough and hard, I took several expeditionary sniffs, my eyes searching for my quarry. Blossoms were, most definitely, my main target, but I also searched eagerly for moss and pine trees.

I strolled through the viridian alleys of the garden, enjoying the pleasant day. Fruitful trees marked my way, fruits of peach and plum, ordinary lemons and rare lychees speckled across their boughs. I scanned the bushes, looking so very carefully for the little petal-joys that I knew I would find more than useful.

It took a little while, but I came across a selection of flowers, multifarious in color and size. With my gloved hands, I grabbed deftly upon their stems and petals, pulling the herbs apart piece by piece. With each pull, more and more buds and blossoms fell into my burlap sack, layered within like sheets of soft parchment. Enjoying myself, I hummed a little tune below my breath, making my way across the rows of bushes.

A few minutes had passed, my mind sunken deep into the quaint pleasure of my actions, when I noticed a presence nearby, its eyes stabbing deep into my back. Turning slowly, I settled my gaze upon the intruder, noting her pale blue coat and her dual-colored mane.

“Ah,” I breathed, a smile creeping across my lips. “Miss Lily Pad. A pleasure to see you here. What can I do for you?” I asked, giving her a friendly, half-dipped bow.

She merely stared at me, a rather peculiar expression upon her. She appeared to be incredulous, her mouth hung open and her brows arched. “Um,” Lily began, her eyes flicking between myself, the sack in my hands, and the bushes behind me. “I am very sorry to interrupt, I…”

Chuckling, I waved my hand in dismissal. “It appears you’ve caught me at a rather vulnerable time. Surprised, are we?” I turned around, my fingers adroitly grasping a burgeoning petal. Pulling it from the flower, I dropped the petals into my bag.

“I’m very sorry to ask, but… what are you doing?” Lily questioned, taking a step back.

“Pick-ing flow-ers,” I intoned, a rhythmic beat to my words. Spotting a particularly wonderful blossom, I grabbed the flower off its stem with a gleeful giggle.

“Oh,” Lily responded, my answer evidently not at all what she was looking for. “Well, in that case, please do go on.”

Looking back at her, I motioned for Lily to stay. “Nonsense. You’re here now, and I could use some company.” I gave her a wry wink, smirking. “I may also have a couple of questions.”

She did not answer, merely electing to sigh. Taking a few steps closer, Lily came to a stop beside me. Her eyes wandered across the flora and the sack in my hands, a curious expression within them.

“If… if I may ask, what are you picking flowers for?” Lily asked.

Smiling, I opened the bag, allowing her to peer in. “Not just flowers. Moss, grass, stems and roots,” I corrected Lily. “If prepared and ingested correctly, all of these herbs can be quite beneficial to the body.”

“In what way?” Lily questioned, a skeptical inflection to her voice. She did not believe me, and I could not blame her—plants and herbs could be used with strangely medicinal properties, but the likes of which I beheld in my bag were not those generally prepared for such snake-oil concoctions one might import from, say, the Far East, or the Great Swamp.

“Many ways,” I elected to respond, intentionally leaving my answer vague. “Perhaps a certain propensity for and to fire, or a magnified resistance to magic. If you’re a particularly resourceful one, with lofty goals, you could even aim to… help along your endurance and stamina.”

Lily’s eyes narrowed, taking a confused and perplexed veil as she looked away. “Lofty goals? Increased stamina?” she muttered, evidently bewildered and, if only a bit, perturbed.

“I don’t mean what you’re thinking I mean,” I reassured Lily, chuckling heartily. “Though, you shan’t worry about it anyways.”

Several more moments passed, during which Lily continued to mutter and whisper in confusion. I was beginning to grow worried, until she finally shook her head and whipped herself out of her trance. “You’re right, I won’t worry about it. In fact, I’d rather not worry about it.”

“That’s a good girl,” I laughed, and in the corner of my eye I could see Lily bristle, if only a tad bit. “Like I said, however. I do have a few questions, curiosities, if I may.”

Lily nodded, taking a seat on the grass below her. “Sure,” she said simply, a small smile upon her. “Why not.”

“Very well,” I placed a final flower into my sack, before turning to face Lily. “Simple enough questions, you shan’t have many to refrain from answering.”

“What’s the first?”

Smiling, I began. “I am curious—how long have you served Princess Luna?”

Lily tilted her head, her brows scrunching in thought. “I… I would guess, maybe, a few months now? Seven, maybe eight?” Frowning, Lily looked away. “I’m the third pony to serve as her personal aide.”

“What happened to the others?” Lily looked back at me, a hard gaze in her eyes. “If I may ask, of course.”

After a moment, she sighed, shrugging. “The first one had a panic attack. Broke down a couple of days into the job. The second mare refused to serve Luna—I think she was the eldest daughter of some noble family, or something.” Lily rolled her eyes. “Well, that’s only what I’ve heard. It’s not definite, what happened to the first two.”

Narrowing my eyes, I lowered my voice to a whisper. “And how do you feel? Working under Luna?”

Lily was silent for many seconds, before answering. “I… I’m very nervous, to be honest. She is the princess, after all,” she said. “But… I want to help her. She seems so lonely.” Lily looked at me, a peculiar gaze in her eyes. “She was very elated, the night you were brought out of the dungeons.”

“I am glad,” I said simply, a slight smile etched upon my lips. “That answers my question, thank you. Though, I do have another.” Lily nodded, motioning for me to continue. “You were very nervous when you first met me. Why?”

Lily frowned, leaning back. “Well, that’s easy. Look at yourself.”

Confused, I looked down upon my body, then felt my cheeks and chin with a hand. “What? What do you mean?”

She rolled her eyes, an annoyed look about them. “Tall, huge bipedal beast, one we’ve never seen before. A really large sword in your hands. Fearsome, shady armor and clothes,” Lily explained, her gaze wandering up and down my body. “You even had the smell of blood on you, though I assume you’ve washed by now?”

I nodded glumly, humbled by Lily’s response.

“I thought so. Even now, you’re a bit scary. Not as much, though.”

Troubled, I tilted my head. “Why not?”

Lily took an incredulous expression, a brow arched and raised. With a hoof, she pointed towards the sack in my hands. “That’s why.”

“Oh,” I sighed, then shook my head. “Well, yes. I do suppose you’re right.”

We remained in silence afterwards, nothing much to say between us. Lily sat on the ground, humming a low tune whilst I continued to pick my way through the gardens’ plants. It was curious, to see that another such “pony” would be at least a little bit interested in one such as I.

I wondered, then, what the normal citizens of this “Equestria” would think of a human, an undead, living amongst their honored royals. How would they take to my kind? After all, Luna had told me of some of their own legends, of undead “zombie” ponies come to haunt their kind after dark. I hoped that I would not be taken too unkindly.

Another question appeared within the recesses of my mind, and I turned back to my companion. “Lily?”

She gazed up at me, curiosity in her eyes. “Yes, Roland?”

“How large is Equestria?” I asked, and Lily’s brow raised in confusion. “Is Canterlot the only city? Or are there many?”

Lily gave a small giggle before responding. “It’s pretty large, I’d say. Canterlot is the capital, but it isn’t the largest city in Equestria, far from it.”

“Oh? Do explain.”

Sitting back on her haunches, the pegasus placed a hoof on her chin and looked up into the sky. “Well, Manehattan’s got to be the largest city—it’s somewhere to the north-east, by the sea. Fillydelphia and Baltimare trail Manehattan in size, but they’re relatively close,” she explained, slowly rocking her head side to side. “If you want a city of mostly pegasi, Cloudsdale is pretty large. It floats all over Equestria, going wherever.”

“A floating city?” I asked, bewildered. I was surprised, very much so, by the banality with which Lily explained the existence of a floating city.

“Mmhm!” she nodded. “Cloudsdale produces most of our weather, so it’s a pretty important city. I’ve always wanted to visit it.”

“Producing weather?” I mumbled quietly, doubtful and nigh disillusioned. “I’ve gone insane. I must have.”

Lily did not appear to have heard me, continuing her lecture. “There’s also the Crystal Empire, far in the north. Apparently, it’s an ancient city, and only reappeared recently. Princess Cadenza and Shining Armor moved there a few weeks ago, to oversee its reintegration.”

“Shining Armor?” I asked, now curious. “I thought he was the Captain of the Guard here? In Canterlot?”

Shaking her head, Lily turned to observe a pair of bright-blue plants. “No, not anymore. Shining Armor was the Captain of the Guard for a long time but, like I said, he’s since moved to the Crystal Empire with Princess Cadenza. They were wed not too long ago, you see.”

Now beginning to understand the situation, I nodded slowly. “I do see. And… I presume Captain Steelhooves has now taken over command?”

“Uh-huh,” Lily affirmed, standing up. “He was Shining Armor’s protégé—there’s some interesting political stuff going on behind that move, but it’s not for me to tell.”

I hummed in acknowledgement, deep in thought. Lily’s words piqued my interest—I had never had the chance to be a man of politics, and I had always presumed that, if given the chance, I would not have even taken a liking to it. The inner spectacles and dramatics within the Undead Legion, as few and minor as they had been, had been enough for me. Yet I, for some unknown reason veiled from my sight, found myself drawn to such ideas of politicking and intrigue in this new world of mine.

I recognized that perhaps, in time, I could draw myself closer to Luna through our shared knowledge of Equestria’s machinations—a means of helping a friend. I knew, indeed, that rulers beheld their own fair share of troubles and agitations, drawn on by the zealous ambition of the crowds of nobles and vassals beneath them. I could perhaps protect Luna, in a way, but that nevertheless required of me a certain knowledge and entrance into those same political theatres.

“Lily. I have one last question.”

Sighing, Lily Pad ruffled her wings and sat down. “Well, I was actually going to go now, but sure. I have time for one more.”

Nodding, I took a deep breath. “Do you think Luna would allow me to participate in her nightly courts? Or even those of Princess Celestia? I would like to gather some inkling of Equestrian politics.”

The pegasus raised a brow, by now a quite common occurrence, and gave me a rather incredulous look. “I… don’t know why you’d want that, but to be honest? I don’t—I don’t really know,” Lily explained. “You’d have to ask Luna yourself. You’re visiting her tonight, aren’t you?”

I hummed in affirmation, my eyes wandering over the ground as I slowly rubbed a well-calloused palm over my chin. “Mm, yes. I am.”

Lily nodded, smiling warmly at me. “Well, then I guess that answers your question. I, uh, really have to go now, though,” she said quickly, beginning to leave in haste. “I’ll see you later, I guess? And try not to pick too many flowers!”

I watched Lily leave, giving her a small wave. Perhaps I would see her again—I had enjoyed our conversation, much like those I had with Princess Luna.

Maybe I had found myself yet another friend.

Author's Note:

Sorry for the lull in updates. I've got some things going on.

If ya'll would like some insight on the update schedule and what's been going on with me lately, I've got a blog post that should explain things. Suffice to say, college is coming up, and I'll need to buckle down and not screw up my higher education.